Virginia Makes Election Day a Holiday: Campaign Update


(Bloomberg) -- Virginia Governor Ralph Northam signed into law changes to the state’s voting practices, including making Election Day a holiday, ending voter ID law and increasing access to early voting.

Virginians can now vote up to 45 days ahead of an election without needing a reason to request an absentee ballot. Those eligible to vote will be automatically registered through the Department of Motor Vehicles when renewing or updating their license, polling hours are extended until 8 p.m. and voters will no longer need to show photo ID.

“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 Sunday. “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 bills were introduced and passed in the Virginia Legislature before states began postponing elections and encouraging absentee voting amid the coronavirus pandemic. Elections in Wisconsin last week were mired in controversy after voters braving a stay at home order endured long lines and problems with absentee ballots.

Sponsors of the Virginia bills argued that existing provisions such as the requiring photo ID at the polls disenfranchised voters and the proposals now enacted into law would make it easier for Americans to vote. Election Day is a holiday in several states including Delaware, Hawaii, Kentucky and New York.

Trump Campaign Sues Wisconsin TV Station for Ad (12:20 p.m.)

Donald Trump’s re-election campaign sued a Wisconsin television station for running an ad that features the president calling coronavirus a “hoax” that his allies say is misleading.

The lawsuit comes after the campaign sent cease and desist letters on March 25 to television stations, including Wisconsin’s WJFW-NBC, over the ad by a top Democratic super PAC, Priorities USA. The spot shows the curve of U.S. cases growing from Jan. 20 to March 22 while featuring audio of Trump playing down the pandemic. “The coronavirus,” Trump says at the beginning, before a second clip plays, “this is their new hoax.”

The Trump campaign says the president was describing Democrats’ efforts to politicize the coronavirus, not calling the virus itself a hoax. Fact-checkers at the Washington Post called a similar ad from Joe Biden’s campaign misleading, noting that the full comments from Trump at a campaign rally compared “politicizing the coronavirus” to the investigation into Russian interference and his impeachment. “In spite of the letter and documentation, WJFW-NBC continued to run the defamatory ad,” Trump’s campaign said in a statement Monday.

Coronavirus will be the primary topic of debate in the 2020 presidential election cycle. Democrats and Biden have sought to criticize Trump’s handling of the pandemic. Trump has pointed to his signing of a $2.2 trillion stimulus package to shore up the battered economy and looked to paint Biden as “weak” on China, where scientists trace the origin of the virus.

Steve Shanks, general manager of WJFW-NBC, didn’t immediately return a voicemail left for comment. -- Mario Parker

Democrats Say GOP Tried to Steal Wisconsin Seat (11:38 a.m.)

Democrats charged that Wisconsin Republicans “tried to steal” a state Supreme Court seat by holding an in-person election last week amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In a video conference call Monday, the chairs of the Wisconsin and national Democratic parties argued that state GOP leaders, the Republican National Committee and conservative state and U.S. Supreme Court justices disenfranchised voters by undercutting mail-in voting and forcing voters to go to the polls despite Governor Tony Evers’s stay-at-home order.

“It was voter suppression on steroids,” said DNC Chair Tom Perez.

Still, Perez argued that Wisconsin was an outlier, highlighting efforts by Republican governors in states like Georgia and Ohio to support mail-in voting in light of the coronavirus pandemic. So far, Wisconsin is the only state to hold an in-person election in April. Wisconsin has 3,341 coronavirus cases and 144 fatalities.

Results of the Wisconsin election are expected later Monday, but Democrats said they are keeping their legal options open, noting that thousands of voters who requested absentee ballots before the state’s deadline did not receive them in time to vote. “It’s impossible to submit an absentee ballot by Election Day when you haven’t even received the damn ballot by Election Day,” Perez said.

The Wisconsin GOP didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. -- Ryan Teague Beckwith

Trump Campaign Raises $212 Million in Quarter (10:45 a.m.)

President Donald Trump’s campaign raised more money in the first quarter of 2020 than in the previous quarter, but the coronavirus pandemic may be starting to slow fundraising efforts.

Trump’s campaign, along with the Republican National Committee and its authorized fundraising arms, took in $212 million in the first three months of the year, it said Monday. That’s about $56 million more than it raised during the final quarter of 2019. But fundraising slowed toward the end of the quarter, with a $63 million take for March that was 27% smaller than February’s haul.

The Trump campaign still has deep coffers, however. It has raised about $677 million so far and has $240 million in cash on hand.

“Americans can see President Trump leading this nation through a serious crisis and they are responding with their continued enthusiastic support for his re-election,” Brad Parscale, Trump’s campaign manager, said in the statement Monday.

The Democratic National Committee hasn’t released its quarterly numbers yet, but Republican fundraising has consistently dwarfed it. The DNC ended February with $14.1 million in cash on hand. Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, said he’s raised $33 million in the first half of March, but he has yet to release a number for the full month.

Coronavirus has ravaged the global economy and affected the 2020 presidential election. Social distancing guidelines to slow the spread of the virus have prevented traditional fundraising efforts and in-person campaigning. Trump’s campaign is holding a series of online events to replace his signature rallies, while Biden is hosting virtual events from his Delaware home. -- Mario Parker

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