Civil liberties group cites privacy concerns and accessibility issuesRichmond, VA – The ACLU of Virginia yesterday urged legislators to support measures that expand voting rights by providing for no-excuse absentee voting for all voters.
“Generally, any voter should be allowed to vote absentee for any reason, and regardless of reason that voter should be able to cast that ballot either in-person or by mail,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Claire G. Gastañaga. “Our current excuse-based system unnecessarily infringes on voters’ privacy by requiring those seeking an absentee ballot to provide to the government personal information – such as the details of a medical condition or religious practices – without providing any safeguards to protect the confidentiality of that information.”
Under current law, voters seeking to vote absentee are required to give general registrars very personal and private information about their medical conditions, illnesses, pregnancies or disabilities that may or may not be visible or public, and personal or business plans. With such private information in the hands of registrars, the ACLU recommends that legislators dictate adequate privacy protections and policies for the secure handling of voters’ confidential information.
In addition to privacy concerns, the letter sent to legislators by ACLU of Virginia Legislative Counsel Hope Amezquita outlined issues related to the adverse impact of limiting no-excuse absentee voting to voters casting ballots in-person.
“The ACLU of Virginia is grateful for your leadership and efforts to expand voting rights for citizens of the Commonwealth and encouragement of active participation in the electoral process,” wrote Amezquita. “…[T]he ACLU, [however,] is concerned that limiting no-excuse absentee voting to in-person voters will have an adverse affect on certain classes of voters…If Virginia limits no-excuse absentee voting to in-person only, qualified voters may be excluded from participating based upon a lack of readily accessible transportation, geography, income status, and may disproportionately impact minority communities.”
“The ideal solution is for Virginia to allow for no-excuse absentee voting in-person and by mail-in ballot,” said Gastañaga. “It eliminates any potential disparate impact and assures voters’ privacy rights.”
The ACLU of Virginia’s letter was sent to Senators Ebbin, Howell, J.C. Miller, Herring, and McWaters and Delegates Morrissey, Scott, Villanueva, Herring, Lopez, D. Marshall, Torian, Surovell, Watts, Ware, Plum.
A copy of letter can be found online at: https://acluva.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/20130110No-ExcuseAbsenteeLetter.pdf
ACLU of Virginia Contacts: Claire G. Gastañaga, Executive Director Hope Amezquita, Legislative Counsel 804-644-8022