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Federal Judge Waives Ballot Witness Requirement in LWV Virginia Case

Ruling allows voters casting absentee ballots to protect their health during COVID-19 pandemic 

LYNCHBURG—Today, a federal judge has ruled in League of Women Voters of Virginia, et al. v. Virginia State Board of Elections that the witness requirement for absentee ballots is waived for the state’s June primary. Both parties had previously come to an agreement to remove the witness requirement, and today their agreement was accepted by the court.

“We are pleased the court saw the pressing need for relief for Virginia voters,” said Deb Wake, president of the League of Women Voters of Virginia, which brought legal action challenging the witness requirement during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Because of today’s decision, voters will be able to cast their ballots in safety without risking their health to locate a witness.”

The court's decision today applies to the state’s primaries on June 23. Voters who cast absentee ballots in this election will be able to submit their signed ballots without a witness signature. Voters casting ballots in city and county elections on May 19 will still need to have a witness verification signature.

“Today's decision was the right call to protect Virginia voters’ health as well as their right to vote,” said Chris Carson, president of the board of directors of the League of Women Voters of the United States. “As states around the country grapple with how to administer elections during the COVID pandemic, they should follow Virginia’s lead and put voters first.”

The League is joined in this case by individual Virginia voters and represented by the ACLU of Virginia. 

“The court’s action preserves the right to vote for Virginians who cannot risk their health to obtain a witness signature in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Davin Rosborough, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. “This settlement is a common-sense solution that protects both public health and democracy.”

Virginia voters can register for the June 23 primary until May 26, and all voters are encouraged to request an absentee ballot if they will not vote in person. Virginia state officials have determined that COVID-19 is a valid reason for everyone to vote absentee, even if they are not ill, meaning that any voter may request an absentee ballot using COVID-19 (2A) as an excuse. 

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Contact: Kayla Vix | 202-809-9668 | [email protected]