Bill Removing Personal Info From Absentee Voting Heads to House Floor

Virginia voters wishing to cast an absentee ballot would still be required to give a reason.

A bill designed to alleviate privacy concerns in the absentee voting process is headed to the full House of Delegates.

The legislation, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Adam Ebbin, would still require a person to give a valid reason to vote absentee, though certain personal information would no longer be required on the application.

"It's important that we not set up artificial roadblocks to voting absentee," Ebbin told Patch in a phone interview. "While some of my colleagues seem to not want to make it easier to vote, I was happy that we are removing an unnecessary roadblock — or, an unnecessary invasion of privacy."

Ebbin's bill is a far cry from no-excuse absentee voting, sometimes called early voting, which would give any registered voter the right to case a ballot early.

"You still have to have an excuse, you just don't have to give the most personal supporting information," Ebbin said.

If the bill becomes law, the following information would no longer be required on absentee voting applications:

  • The rank, grade and service identification number of active duty military;
  • The school address of students;
  • The specific nature of a disability or illness;
  • The jail address for someone awaiting trial or having been convicted of a misdemeanor;
  • The name of a family member and the nature of their illness for caregivers;
  • A person's religion for those claiming religious obligations; and,
  • A work address for anyone who must work 11 or more hours on election day.

Ebbin said conversations with election boards in Arlington and Alexandria taught him that some disabled people, in particular, did not want to disclose the nature of their disabilities. And veteran friends told him a service identification number was like a Social Security number, he said.

The bill passed the Senate late last month, and was reported out of the House Privileges and Elections Committee on Friday with a 20-1 vote.  Del. Bill Howell (R-28-Parts of Fredericksburg and Stafford) voted for the bill.

Ebbin's office expects a full House vote by mid-week.

Read more at: The 2013 Virginia General Assembly

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