by Tyler Arnold
Legislation that would allow third-party contractors to handle the distribution of absentee ballots is headed to Gov. Ralph Northam’s desk as other voting reforms await further action.
Senate Bill 1239, sponsored by Sen. John Bell, D-Broadlands, would allow general registrars to contract to these third parties for printing, assembling and mailing the ballots. This would not allow third parties to handle ballots that have already been cast. The Democratic-led bill passed with some bipartisan support, clearing the Senate 27-12 and the House of Delegates 70-30.
The legislation would also direct the State Board of Elections to adopt emergency regulations set in the bill to ensure secure and timely delivery of voter information to the contractors and reports of mailed absentee ballots from the contractors.
A few other Senate-passed election reform bills passed the House with substitutes or amendments. The amended versions of these bills will need to be considered by the Senate.
This includes one reform that has unanimous bipartisan support: Senate Bill 1331 would make tools available to localities to provide electronic, accessible ballots to voters with visual impairments or print disabilities. The general registrar would be required to provide a voter with these ballots at the request of the voter.
Two heavily partisan bills will also be sent back to the Senate amended. Senate Bill 1097 would repeal the requirement of a witness signature on an absentee ballot and Senate Bill 1245 would allow voters to correct information on absentee ballots that have already been cast.
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Tyler Arnold reports on Virginia and West Virginia for The Center Square. He previously worked for the Cause of Action Institute and has been published in Business Insider, USA TODAY College, National Review Online and the Washington Free Beacon.