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  • Michalina Kubicka

Virginia Early Vote

Hey, y’all! Happy Friday-- as always, we’re glad to have you here.

As we *all* know, this upcoming Tuesday is a big Election Day in a number of crucial states - including Virginia. And, because Virgina has dramatically expanded voting access in recent years, we already know a few things about what the state’s 2021 electorate looks like. Which, for folks like us, is very exciting news. So we thought we’d dive into it a bit.

(Kenny Holston for The New York Times)

Remind Me How Virginia Dramatically Expanded Voting Access, Again?

We’re glad you asked: our 10th grade history teacher prepared us for a moment just like this (thanks, Mrs. Moskowitz!).

Some backstory: under the Voting Rights Act, or VRA (signed in 1965 by President Lyyndon Johnson; dismantled in 2013 by the Supreme Court), Virginia was one of 7-ish states that were subject to a process called preclearance. Basically, preclearance created extra-strict protections for voting access in states that had particularly egregious histories of racial discrimination in voting. Think things like poll taxes, literacy tests, property ownership requirements, and “moral character” tests.

To put it another way, prior to the passage of the VRA, Black Americans in states like Virginia were effectively barred from voting. Though the VRA wasn’t perfect, its passage brought our country a whole lot closer to its stated ideals of universal suffrage.

That’s why, when it was de facto repealed by the Supreme Court in 2013, lots of states that, like Virginia, had histories of racial discrimination in voting moved quickly to put in place discriminatory voter suppression laws. But Virginia went another way.

Wait, What Did Virginia Do?

In the last two years, Virginia has:

  • repealed a voter ID law,

  • enacted 45 days of no-excuse absentee voting before any election,

  • made Election Day a state holiday, and

  • enacted automatic voter registration for anyone who receives a Virginia driver’s license.

This year, they also passed their own version of the VRA: the Voting Rights Act of Virginia. We wrote a whole blog post about it here, but, at its core, the Virginia VRA (the VVRA?) expressly prohibits any racial discrimination related to voting.

And Now There’s An Election

Yep, the first one since the passage of the VVRA (we’re going with it, okay?). And because Virginia now has a lengthy guaranteed early voting period, we already know a bit about who’s voting.

Give Me Some Numbers

So far, over 650,000 Virginians have voted in this election-- that’s compared to just 190,000 who voted early for all of 2017 (the last off-cycle gubernatorial election).

Even better? More than 175,000 of those early votes have come from people who didn’t vote in 2017.

Also noteworthy is the racial composition of these Virginia voters. Nearly 12% of the votes cast so far this year have been cast by Black voters, a 4% jump from the final number in 2017.

So, What Does That Tell Us?

That, dear reader, tells us that expansive voting bills, like the Virginia Voting Rights Act, work. Especially for voters of color. Period. End of story.

Now, imagine if we could pass an expansive voting act on the national scale.

Say, like one of the ones being tossed around in Congress.

Imagine what that could do to the composition of our electorate - to representation for communities that, today, are oppressed, under-served, and under-represented.

We think that sounds pretty great.

Thanks for reading, y'all. Talk soon.

“American history is longer, larger, more various, more beautiful, and more terrible than anything anyone has ever said about it.” – James Baldwin

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