Virginia has abolished a day honoring Confederate generals in favor of a state holiday on election day. The move is part of a raft of measures to make voting easier.
Governor Ralph Northam signed legislation on Sunday to expand access to the ballot across his state. The Democrat abolished the need for voter ID and expanded early voting.
Voters will now be able to vote up to 45 days before the election without stating a reason and election day will be a state holiday.
I have signed legislation that repeals Virginia’s voter ID law, makes Election Day a state holiday, and expands access to early voting. Voting is a fundamental right––these laws strengthen our democracy by making it easier to cast a ballot, not harder.https://t.co/Uvaocr1pHH
— Ralph Northam (@GovernorVA) April 12, 2020
“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.”
The state holiday for election day will replace Lee-Jackson Day. This holiday, initiated in 1904, celebrated Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson.
Both men owned slaves and fought against the Union in the Civil War of 1861-65. The holiday often fell during the Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend – timing many felt was inappropriate.
“We need to make Election Day a holiday,” Northam argued in his State of the Commonwealth address this year.
“We can do it by ending the Lee-Jackson holiday that Virginia holds,” he said.
“It commemorates a lost cause. It’s time to move on.”
Darragh Roche is a journalist covering U.S. politics and media