If you’re like most civil rights advocates in Virginia, this year’s legislative session probably left you feeling accomplished, encouraged, and maybe even comforted. We legalized marijuana, ended the death penalty, expanded protections for the LGBTQ+ community, and so much more.
But it's time for a reality check. Just because you’re comfortable with where we are doesn’t mean you should be complacent about where we’re going. We won’t sugarcoat it – a lot is at stake in the upcoming November 2 election, and we could very well lose some of the civil liberties we fought for years to get. We’ve accomplished so much in the fight to move Virginia forward, but this one election could move us backward. We can’t let that happen.
Here are just a few things at risk if Virginia’s voters sit this election out:
Right now, Virginia is a haven for reproductive rights in the South. Some recent progress includes ending medically unnecessary requirements to receive an abortion like mandatory ultrasounds, state-mandated counseling, and a 24-hour waiting period. Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington also recently announced the launch of a mail program for abortion medication, expanding abortion access throughout the DMV and providing safe abortion services in people’s homes.
Make no mistake – some candidates running in the upcoming election will take these rights away if elected. We can’t let this progress be undone, and we must elect people who will protect the right to abortion in our Commonwealth.
Virginia legalized marijuana during last year’s legislative session and greenlit the process to prepare our Commonwealth for legal sale. The marijuana legislation wasn’t perfect; it left out important provisions to protect children from being criminalized, opened the door for police to pull people over for open containers of weed in vehicles, and didn’t prioritize setting people in prison on drug charges free.
With the wrong people in elected office, we don’t only risk keeping these harmful policies, though - we risk undoing the legalization entirely.
We must protect and expand this crucial legislation by voting people into office who recognize that no one should be in prison or criminalized for weed possession.
The Right to Vote amendment would enshrine a permanent right to vote in Virginia’s constitution and ensure that people cannot be restricted from voting based on a felony conviction. If passed, this amendment will expand voting rights across the Commonwealth and make sure that every person 18 and over has a say in the people that govern them.
Last year, the Virginia General Assembly passed the Right to Vote amendment for the first time, unfortunately with a carve-out for people who are currently serving time for a felony conviction. They must pass it again this year before it will go on the ballot for Virginia voters to decide.
The amendment’s momentum may come to a screeching halt depending on who we elect in November. We must elect representatives committed to expanding the right to vote, not stifling it.
We'll be blunt – sitting this election out is not an option if you want to keep and expand on the progress we’ve made. Your choice to vote or not impacts Virginia’s laws for years to come, and could roll back civil liberties and rights for Virginians. And, with all eyes on Virginia, the people we elect now could impact elections across the country.
So what can you do? Make a plan to vote and talk to everyone in your circle about what's at stake. We owe it to one another to keep Virginia moving forward.