In what might be one of the few positive headlines coming out of the Virginia General Assembly this session, the Virginia Senate passed a bill on Monday allowing 65 year old Virginians and over the ability to vote by absentee ballot without providing a justification.
Unfortunately, the Senate also stopped a bill that would have enabled any registered voter in Virginia to vote absentee. At present, Virginia law allows voters to vote absentee if they cannot go to polls on Election Day for certain reasons.
The bill to allow seniors the absentee vote was sponsored by Sen.s John Miller and Jeffrey L. McWaters and approved by a 28-9 vote.
Absentee voting has become a popular method for staying away from the polls on Election Day while still casting a vote, which is probably why the Virginia Senate stopped short in allowing all registered voters in Virginia the ability to vote absentee.
With so many alleged problems at the polls though, it is up to debate about how ‘safe’ casting an absentee ballot is. That is, why should an absentee voter feel confident that their vote will be counted in Virginia if all of the alleged voter fraud is taking place?
And it is worthwhile to discuss whether or not opening absentee voting to all registered voters is something akin to allowing a wide group of Virginians to avoid a part of their patriotic duty (i.e., voting in person at the polls). Perhaps it is an anachronism but maybe it’s also a real concern. If we don’t have to make sacrifices, small as they may be to vote at the polls, are we really taking our responsibilities as citizens of a republic seriously?
I’ll leave that question for you to answer, but for my own part I will say that like any ritual, a failure to perform takes away a good deal of the power that accompanies it (e.g., a formal wedding ceremony), or at least it can. In this brave new world, I guess we’ll have to see where new norms and unchained traditions take us.