I worry about the danger this poses to communities throughout the state, including my own. Officials are still trying to determine how many people in Wisconsin may have contracted COVID-19 from their disastrous decision to hold in-person primaries in April. Without action from the legislature, Governor Northam has pushed the local elections back to May 19th.
I live in Williamsburg, VA. It’s a relatively small city with only two polling locations. One is used almost exclusively by students at the College of William and Mary, which leaves a single polling location that will be shared by most of the voters who are still living in Williamsburg during the lockdown.
At the beginning of the crisis, Williamsburg and James City County (WJCC) were among the hardest-hit locations in the state with coronavirus. We still have one of the highest per capita rates in the Commonwealth. But it could have been a lot worse.
WJCC managed to get its outbreak under control, and I’m disgusted that the Virginia Senate disregarded the safety of my community and so many others for the sake of campaign dollars spent or political expediency.
We all still need to vote, but we also need to stay safe. So, this is a great time to take advantage of early voting options here in the Commonwealth. Though the expansions that the General Assembly passed earlier this year don’t go into effect until July 1, the “illness” absentee ballot and early voting excuse has been extended to cover anyone practicing social distancing due to COVID-19. So, everyone in Virginia now qualifies to vote early or by mail for this election. Stay safe and vote early or from home, if you can.
You can still get an absentee ballot for the June 23rd primary election and in-person early voting for the June primaries started Friday, May 15th. Information on how to vote absentee and how to get a ballot can be found here. If you want to vote early in-person to avoid the crowds during local elections on May 19th, you can use this resource to find your early in-person polling location. Voting early in-person still has all of the same requirements as normal in-person voting, which means you’ll still need a valid voter ID for these elections.
And going forward, tell your elected officials that this is unacceptable during a pandemic. Let them know we need vote-by-mail by November for our presidential election to be fair and safe for all Virginians!