Virginia Ends Confederate Tribute Holiday To Make Election Day A State Holiday

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) speaks with reporters at a press conference at the Governor's Mansion on February 2, 2019 in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo by Alex Edelman/Getty Images)
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April 13, 2020 11:25 a.m.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam signed several bills into law on Sunday that would boost voting accessibility in the state as COVID-19 threatens to interrupt the upcoming elections this year.

One of the measures included removing Lee-Jackson Day, a tribute to Confederate leaders Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, and replacing it by making Election Day a state holiday.

One of the laws also rolls back the state’s notorious voter ID requirements, which were major hurdles to voting that disproportionately targeted people of color and low-income citizens.

“Voting is a fundamental right, and these new laws strengthen our democracy by making it easier to cast a ballot, not harder,” Northam said in a statement. “No matter who you are or where you live in Virginia, your voice deserves to be heard. I’m proud to sign these bills into law.”

Several states have moved toward enacting alternatives to in-person voting, such as voting by mail, as health experts urge the public to avoid gathering in large crowds to prevent spreading COVID-19.

However, President Donald Trump has made it clear that he opposes such efforts to make it easier to vote because he believes fewer Republicans would win elections.

“They had things, levels of voting that if you ever agreed to it you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again,” Trump said in March of House Democrats’ proposals in Congress’ sweeping $2 trillion coronavirus relief package.

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