Governor Northam Celebrates Voting Reforms, Record Turnout—Earning Virginia Awards for Successful Election
RICHMOND, VA (STL.News) Governor Ralph Northam today thanked employees at the Virginia Department of Elections for conducting a safe, successful, and secure election marked by record turnout. Nearly 3.3 million people voted in the 2021 statewide election, and the department earned two Telly Awards for its PROTECT 2020: Virginia Elections Virtual Security Workshop.
“The Virginia Department of Election’s commitment to conducting a fair and free election keeps our democracy protected,” said Governor Northam. “We have worked hard to remove barriers and ensure voting is accessible for every eligible Virginian. Elections must be secure in order for everyone’s voice to be heard. Thank you to the hard working employees at the Department of Election for everything you do.”
Virginia passed sweeping election reforms over the past two years, making voting easier—even as other states took action to make voting harder. The Virginia Voting Rights Act prohibits discrimination in elections administration, requires local election officials to obtain feedback or pre-approval for voting changes, and allows individuals to sue in cases of voter suppression. It requires localities to seek public comment or pre-approval from the Office of the Attorney General on any proposed voting changes, and empowers voters and/or the Attorney General to sue in cases of voter suppression. Civil penalties awarded as a result of voting discrimination will go towards a new Voter Education and Outreach Fund.
The law also prohibits at-large local elections if they dilute the voting power of racial minorities. It also ensures accessibility by requiring local election officials to provide voting materials in foreign languages, as needed.
New laws passed in 2020:
- Established 45 days of no-excuse early voting,
- Repealed discriminatory voter ID law,
- Made Election Day a state holiday,
- Implemented automatic registration for individuals accessing service at the Department of Motor Vehicles, and
- Extended in-person voting hours.
These reforms significantly increased voter turnout. The 2020 Presidential election saw more than 4.4 million voters and the 2021 statewide election saw nearly 3.3 million voters.
To keep elections safe and secure, the Virginia Department of Elections invested heavily in training election officials and poll workers. The Department developed PROTECT 2020 as a federal, state, and local collaboration to support the training needed to keep Virginia’s elections safe and secure. The Virginia Innovation Partnership Corporation and the Angela Costello Group worked with the department to produce the award-winning PROTECT 2020 series. The series of 14 virtual workshops shared security best practices and operating procedures with local administration leaders, information technology professionals, locality emergency management staff, and election offices at all levels. The content was designed to improve threat awareness, aid with planning, and develop recommendations.
The workshop won two Telly Awards in the categories of ‘Non-Broadcast: Training’ and ‘Non-Broadcast: Internal Communications.’
The Telly Awards were established in 1979 to recognize the best videos created within television and across all screens annually. Telly Award winners showcase the excellent work from some of the most applauded advertisement agencies, television stations, and organizations from around the world. This year, the Telly Awards received over 12,000 submissions from all 50 states and five continents.
“Commissioner Piper and the staff at the Department of Elections deserve to be recognized for their tireless work,” said Secretary of Administration Grindly Johnson. “Daily, they work to guarantee the Commonwealth is prepared for local, state, and federal elections.”
“We’re especially honored by the recognition these awards shed on our constant, year-round efforts to ensure free, fair, and secure elections,” said Virginia Department of Elections Commissioner Christopher Piper. “This is especially rewarding given that PROTECT 2020 was our first ever virtual training effort, which accomplished our training objectives while ensuring COVID-19 health precautions were taken to protect all those involved.”