NEW PLAN: McClellan Proposes Historic Expansion of Voting Rights, Protections Against Disenfranchisement

Comprehensive plan to make Virginia number 1 in the nation for voting rights

RICHMOND – Today, candidate for governor Senator Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond) announced her plan to make Virginia number one in the nation for voting rights at the historic downtown mall in Charlottesville. McClellan’s agenda would build on her work passing the Voting Rights Act of Virginia – the first voting rights act in the South. 

In the new plan, McClellan lays out her comprehensive voting rights agenda: creating a universal vote-by-mail system, implementing back-end automatic voter registration to increase registration efficiency; passing constitutional amendments to stop racial gerrymandering and restore the rights of previously incarcerated Virginians; and making Virginia the first state in the South to implement statewide ranked choice voting.

READ: McClellan’s Plan to Make Virginia #1 for Voting Rights


McClellan’s plan — entitled “Making Virginia Number One in the Nation for Voting Rights” — would also ensure that 100% of polling locations are accessible for Virginians with disabilities, protect the gains made on Virginia’s voter laws by funding the newly established Voter Education and Outreach Fund, and engage Virginia’s youngest voters through a civic engagement workgroup.

“It’s time to make Virginia the number one state in the country for voting rights,” McClellan said. “My great-grandfather faced literacy tests, and my father was subjected to poll taxes. We remember what generations before us faced, and we must protect voting rights for generations to come. As governor, I will build on the Voting Rights Act of Virginia with an expansive voting rights plan, so that no community across our Commonwealth will have to endure obstacles to the ballot box. While other states pass damaging legislation, Virginia must remain a national leader on protecting the right to vote.”

During her announcement, McClellan discussed her family’s history with voter suppression and intimidation. Her great grandfather was subjected to literacy tests and made to find three white men to “vouch for his character” before he was allowed to register to vote, her grandmother was not allowed to register, and her father paid poll taxes to cast his ballot.

“Jenn’s plan to safeguard voting rights in Virginia will make our Commonwealth a beacon for democracy across the country,” said Tram Nguyen, executive director of New Virginia Majority. “As our next governor, Jennifer McClellan will defeat the vestiges of Jim Crow and voter disenfranchisement that are still baked into Virginia today. Jenn has been a leader on this issue her entire life, from reversing restrictive GOP voter ID requirements to passing one of the strongest Voting Rights Acts in the country. Her plan will champion democracy through every corner of the Commonwealth.”

Under her plan to “Make Virginia Number One in the Nation for Voting Rights,” McClellan will will: 

  • Protect the gains made on Virginia’s voter protection and access laws by funding her newly established Voter Education and Outreach Fund

  • End felony disenfranchisement by using her executive power to restore voting rights to those who have served their sentence until her automatic restoration constitutional amendment passes the General Assembly

  • Introduce legislation to create an automatic vote-by-mail ballot system for all eligible voters in Virginia, building on the recently expanded absentee voting system

  • Implement a ranked-choice voting system in Virginia for to all local elections, statewide primary elections, and federal elections –– providing voters with more choice in exercising their most fundamental right

  • Implement a “back-end opt-out” model for automatic voter registration to modernize Virginia’s current system and make for a registration system that works better for voters and state election officials alike

  • Make 100% of polling locations accessible for Virginians with disabilities, addressing the locations currently inaccessible and directing the Board of Elections to partner with disability advocacy groups to conduct ADA accessibility audits of every polling place in Virginia

  • End gerrymandering by working to enshrine redistricting criteria to explicitly protect minority groups in the Virginia Constitution

  • Form a working group that develops recommendations on how to engage high school students and young adult voters in the voting process 

WATCH: McClellan Discuss Her Voting Rights Plan on MSNBC

In McClellan’s 16 sessions in the legislature, she has driven and fought for generational progress in voter protections and rights. She helped reverse the GOP leader’s 2010 restrictive voter ID requirements and the set of seven restrictive Republican voter ID laws from 2013, expanded the list of accepted voter ID options, helped create no excuse absentee voting, extended the timeline for mailed absentee ballots, enabled permanent absentee voting by mail, created automatic voter registration and same day registration, and ended prison gerrymandering in the redistricting process. McClellan’s leadership passing the Voting Rights Act of Virginia in the Virginia Senate laid the foundations for generational progress in protecting Virginians’ right to vote.