By Georgina Cannan and Matthew Weinstein, Co-Chairs
Some of the most important proposed changes to the application reduce the likelihood that it will be thrown out based on the applicant’s confusion over inapplicable instructions or forgetfulness. It would do this by increasing the number of omissions classified as non-material to include: indication of eligibility for late registration or protected voter status, interest in serving as an officer of election, suffix, and witness signature. It would also add the option of “none” for social security number and middle initial and makes failure to fill out those sections not material if the “none” option is selected. Finally, the new form would add to the affirmation section statements confirming that the voter meets the Virginia voter registration requirements for citizenship, age, and residency and makes failure to check those boxes a non-material omission so long as the affirmation is signed.
The new application would also make it easier for voters who are homeless, protected, and have physical disabilities to register by providing clarifying instructions relating to the signature and including a mailing address.
Other changes in the form are related to the 2015 legislation replacing voter registration cards with correspondence confirming registration status and continuing improvements to online services.
The Voter Protection Council has posted a comment commending the work of the State Board and Department of Elections and encouraging them to make a further change by allowing applicants to write in their gender. Currently, the draft form lists makes gender identification optional, rather than mandatory. We agree with this change, especially since the federal registration forms do not require voters to select a gender. Since the draft forms make gender identity optional, we believe that the form should be changed so that voters can write in their gender. The form should read Gender: ___________ rather than provide a box to check.
The public comment period for the application is open through August 3, 2015 and we encourage you to visit http://townhall.virginia.gov/ and check out the new application for yourself. We’ve posted our comment letting the State Board know how much we appreciate the changes they’ve proposed and we encourage you to do the same! It’s important we make sure these changes are here to stay.