RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam wants to make it easier to vote early and harder for political candidates to bring in big checks.
The Democratic governor outlined a package of proposed legislation Monday that includes a bill to allow no-excuse absentee voting.
Virginia currently limits absentee voting to people with qualifying reasons.
The governor is also proposing new campaign finance limits that would cap donations at $10,000, block direct donations from corporations, and prohibit lawmakers from the personal use of campaign funds.
Northam said the proposals would boost public confidence in politics but added that his political action committee will continue to accept large corporate donations until the laws are changed.
The GOP-controlled General Assembly has defeated similar proposals in past years.
This year's legislative session starts Wednesday.
Below is Northam's full press release:
RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced legislative proposals to remove barriers to voting and reform campaign finance laws. The package includes proposals to implement no-excuse absentee voting; repeal the requirement to show a photo ID to vote; limit large campaign contributions; ban direct contributions from corporations or businesses; and prohibit the personal use of campaign funds.
“Participation makes our democracy strong—we should encourage every eligible voter to exercise this fundamental right, rather than creating unnecessary barriers that make getting to the ballot box difficult,” said Governor Northam. “I am also hopeful we will be successful working together this session to increase the transparency of our elections for Virginians by imposing reasonable limitations on campaign contributions.”
Legislation to implement no-excuse absentee voting, patroned by Senator Mamie Locke and Delegate Charniele Herring, will help reduce lines on Election Day and expand access for more Virginians to exercise their right to vote.
Legislation repealing the law requiring individuals to present a photo ID in order to vote will be patroned by Senator Mamie Locke and Delegate Kaye Kory.
“Voting is the constitutional right of every American citizen. Lawmakers should be working to increase access to the voting booth, not inventing ways to keep voters away from the polls,” said Delegate Kaye Kory. “The photo ID requirement prevents the most vulnerable Virginians from voting and silences the voices of those who most need to be heard.”
Legislation to limit large individual campaign contributions will be patroned by Senator Chap Petersen. This bill caps campaign contributions at $10,000 per candidate over the course of a given primary and general election cycle. Thirty-nine other states and the federal government have set limits on how much a single person can contribute to a campaign. In Virginia, no limit currently exists.
“There’s too much big money in politics,” said Senator Chap Petersen. “We need some reasonable limits on what people can contribute in order to keep the process honest.”
The proposal to ban direct corporate and business contributions to campaigns will be patroned by Delegate Elizabeth Guzman. To ensure enforcement, the bill also bans corporations and businesses from making direct contributions to their own political action committees. Contributions from individuals would be unaffected by this legislation.
“Our Commonwealth has an opportunity to reform campaign finance laws by banning direct corporate and business donations,” said Delegate Elizabeth Guzman. “Virginians want legislators who represent their interests, and this reform will foster more trust in the legislative process.”
Legislation to ban the personal use of campaign funds will be patroned by Delegate Marcus Simon. This bill prohibits candidates from using campaign money for personal expenses, which is currently allowed under Virginia law.