WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Thursday, Jan. 26, the Virginia House of Delegates passed several election bills, including two that would ban drop boxes in the state and cut the early in-person voting period. House Bill 1693 would end the use of drop boxes, striking any reference to the convenient and secure boxes from Virginia code. Instead, voters would have to send mail-in ballots through the U.S. Postal Service or drop off to an elections official (general register). This would severely undermine convenient methods to return mail-in ballots for Virginia voters.
House Bill 1877 would limit in-person early voting (in Virginia, this is called “absentee voting in person”) to the two weeks immediately before Election Day. Currently, Virginia has one of the most expansive early voting periods in the nation starting 45 days before an election. H.B. 1877 would cut that period by 31 days, a whole month less of voting opportunities.
Both bills passed 51 to 47 in the House on purely partisan lines, with all Republicans voting in favor and all Democrats voting against. The Virginia General Assembly is one of the few divided state legislatures in the country; H.B. 1693 and H.B. 1877 narrowly advanced through the Republican-controlled House, but face little prospects of passing in the Democratic-controlled state Senate. All legislative seats are up for election at the end of this year in November 2023.