The following article is an opinion piece John Lesinski wrote for the May 7th edition of “The Roanoke Times” on the Virginia GOP’s efforts to influence the upcoming June primary and obstruct voters’ access to absentee voting.
Lesinski is seeking the Democratic nomination for the 5th District in the U.S. House of Representatives.
On April 29, Attorney General Mark Herring made the encouraging announcement that absentee ballots in the Commonwealth will be counted in the June 23rd primary without requiring a witness. The announcement is an effort to mitigate any unnecessary voting barriers in the middle of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Further, this move strengthens Gov. Northam’s efforts to encourage individuals to vote absentee to limit the number of people going to the polls in person on June 23rd.
The Virginia GOP, in response, has filed a lawsuit in Lynchburg seeking to block this move. They want to dismantle and disrupt the state leadership’s desire to not recreate the unsafe voting conditions seen in Wisconsin’s most recent election.
The attacks on voting by mail would be irresponsible in the best of times. During a pandemic, these Republican actions show a flagrant disregard for the public health and safety of Virginia’s citizens. This also is a thinly veiled effort to suppress the vote, especially in communities of color and with those who feel too vulnerable to expose themselves to the pandemic.
Voting is the cornerstone of our democracy and a person’s ability to participate in elections should not come at the expense of one’s health. COVID-19 is still very much present in the Commonwealth. So far, stay at home orders and leadership from Governor Northam have proven to be meaningful in combating the virus. Voting by mail is simply the responsible thing to do in these conditions.
Currently I am a candidate in the Democratic primary for Virginia’s fifth congressional district. My campaign for Congress has taken great strides to adapt to social distancing protocols while continuing to be present to the voters in Virginia’s fifth. The safety of my staff, volunteers and the citizenry is our number one priority. In these tough times we are called to think beyond ourselves in an effort to care for our neighbors. I call on Democrats and Republicans across the Commonwealth to stand up for what is right: unfettered voter participation for all registered voters, continued fair elections, and public safety.
We encourage everyone to exercise their right to vote, safely and honestly. For more information on how to vote on June 23rd, check out our Vote page!