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Virginia > Title 24.2 Elections > The Election

§ 24.2-649 Assistance for certain voters; penalties

Overview of Statute

This section lays out persons who may request assistance in voting and from whom. It also provides for penalties resulting from the violation of this section.

Statute

A. Any voter age 65 or older or physically disabled may request and then shall be handed a printed ballot by an officer of election outside the polling place but within 150 feet of the entrance to the polling place. The voter shall mark the printed ballot in the officer’s presence but in a secret manner and, obscuring his vote, return the ballot to the officer. The officer shall immediately return to the polling place and shall deposit a paper ballot in the ballot container in accordance with § 24.2-646 or a machine-readable ballot in the ballot scanner machine in accordance with the instructions of the State Board.

Any county or city that has acquired an electronic voting machine that is so constructed as to be easily portable may use the voting machine in lieu of a printed ballot for the voter requiring assistance pursuant to this subsection. However, the electronic voting machine may be used in lieu of a printed ballot only so long as: (i) the voting machine remains in the plain view of two officers of election representing two political parties, or in a primary election, two officers of election representing the party conducting the primary, provided that if the use of two officers for this purpose would result in too few officers remaining in the polling place to meet legal requirements, the voting machine shall remain in plain view of one officer who shall be either the chief officer or the assistant chief officer and (ii) the voter casts his ballot in a secret manner unless the voter requests assistance pursuant to this section. After the voter has completed voting his ballot, the officer or officers shall immediately return the voting machine to its assigned location inside the polling place. The machine number, the time that the machine was removed and the time that it was returned, the number on the machine’s public counter before the machine was removed and the number on the same counter when it was returned, and the name or names of the officer or officers who accompanied the machine shall be recorded on the statement of results.

B. Any qualified voter who requires assistance to vote by reason of physical disability or inability to read or write may, if he so requests, be assisted in voting. If he is blind, he may designate an officer of election or any other person to assist him. If he is unable to read and write or disabled for any cause other than blindness, he may designate an officer of election or some other person to assist him other than the voter’s employer or agent of that employer, or officer or agent of the voter’s union.

The officer of election or other person so designated shall not enter the booth with the voter unless (i) the voter signs a request stating that he requires assistance by reason of physical disability or inability to read or write and (ii) the officer of election or other person signs a statement that he is not the voter’s employer or an agent of that employer, or an officer or agent of the voter’s union, and that he will act in accordance with the requirements of this section. The request and statement shall be on a single form furnished by the State Board. If the voter is unable to sign the request, his own mark acknowledged by him before an officer of election shall be sufficient signature, provided no mark shall be required of a voter who is blind. An officer of election shall advise the voter and person assisting the voter of the requirements of this section and record the name of the voter and the name and address of the person assisting him.

The officer of election or other person so designated shall assist the qualified voter in the preparation of his ballot in accordance with his instructions and without soliciting his vote or in any manner attempting to influence his vote and shall not in any manner divulge or indicate, by signs or otherwise, how the voter voted on any office or question. If a printed ballot is used, the officer or other person so designated shall deposit the ballot in the ballot container in accordance with § 24.2-646 or in the ballot scanner machine in accordance with the instructions of the State Board.

C. If the voter requires assistance in a language other than English and has not designated a person to assist him, an officer of election, before he assists as interpreter, shall inquire of the representatives authorized to be present pursuant to § 24.2-604 whether they have a volunteer available who can interpret for the voter. One representative interpreter for each party or candidate, insofar as available, shall be permitted to observe the officer of election communicate with the voter. The voter may designate one of the volunteer party or candidate interpreters to provide assistance. A person so designated by the voter shall meet all the requirements of this section for a person providing assistance.

D. A person who willfully violates subsection B or C is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. In addition, the provisions of § 24.2-1016 and its felony penalties for false statements shall be applicable to any request or statement signed pursuant to this section, and the provisions of §§ 24.2-704 and 24.2-1012 and the felony penalties for violations of the law related to providing assistance to absentee voters shall be applicable in such cases.

E. In any precinct in which an electronic voting machine is available that provides an audio ballot, the officers of election shall notify a voter requiring assistance pursuant to this section that such machine is available for him to use to vote in privacy without assistance and the officers of election shall instruct the voter on the use of the voting machine. Nothing in this section shall be construed to require a voter to use the machine unassisted.

Code 1950, §§ 24-245, 24-251, 24-252, 24-310; 1950, c. 230; 1952, c. 581; 1962, c. 536; 1964, c. 593; 1969, Ex. Sess., c. 5; 1970, c. 462, §§ 24.1-129, 24.1-132, 24.1-220; 1973, c. 30; 1975, c. 515; 1978, c. 778; 1984, cc. 234, 775; 1985, cc. 197, 458; 1986, c. 558; 1987, c. 349; 1988, c. 598; 1993, c. 641; 2003, c. 1015; 2004, cc. 993, 1010; 2005, c. 569; 2006, c. 242; 2009, c. 809; 2014, cc. 540, 576.

Annotation: 10/11/2016 9:59 pm

Recent Attorney General opinion clarified that the use of a camera or audio or visual recording device to communicate with an “other” outside of the polling place for assistance in voting is not permitted by this statute. See http://ag.virginia.gov/files/Opinions/2016/16-038_Bell_Lind_issued.pdf.

Definition [State Board]

The State Board of Elections.

See § 24.2-101.

Definition [Paper ballot]

A tangible ballot that is marked by a voter and then manually counted.

See § 24.2-101.

Definition [Polling place]

The structure that contains the one place provided for each precinct at which the qualified voters who are residents of the precinct may vote.

See § 24.2-101.

Definition [Printed ballot]

A tangible ballot that is printed on paper and includes both machine-readable ballots and paper ballots.

See § 24.2-101.

Definition [Qualified voter]

A person who is entitled to vote pursuant to the Constitution of Virginia and who is (i) 18 years of age on or before the day of the election or qualified pursuant to § 24.2-403 or subsection D of § 24.2-544, (ii) a resident of the Commonwealth and of the precinct in which he offers to vote, and (iii) a registered voter. No person who has been convicted of a felony shall be a qualified voter unless his civil rights have been restored by the Governor or other appropriate authority. No person adjudicated incapacitated shall be a qualified voter unless his capacity has been reestablished as provided by law. Whether a signature should be counted towards satisfying the signature requirement of any petition shall be determined based on the signer of the petition’s qualification to vote. For purposes of determining if a signature on a petition shall be included in the count toward meeting the signature requirements of any petition, “qualified voter” shall include only persons maintained on the Virginia voter registration system (a) with active status and (b) with inactive status who are qualified to vote for the office for which the petition was circulated.

See § 24.2-101.

Definition [Primary election]

An election held for the purpose of selecting a candidate to be the nominee of a political party for election to office.

See § 24.2-101.

Definition [Officer of election]

A person appointed by an electoral board pursuant to § 24.2-115 to serve at a polling place for any election.

See § 24.2-101.

Definition [Ballot scanner machine]

The electronic counting machine in which a voter inserts a marked ballot to be scanned and the results tabulated.

See § 24.2-101.

Definition [Machine-readable ballot]

A tangible ballot that is marked by a voter or by a system or device operated by a voter and then fed into and scanned by a counting machine capable of reading ballots and tabulating results.

See § 24.2-101.

Definition [Party]

An organization of citizens of the Commonwealth which, at either of the two preceding statewide general elections, received at least 10 percent of the total vote cast for any statewide office filled in that election. The organization shall have a state central committee and an office of elected state chairman which have been continually in existence for the six months preceding the filing of a nominee for any office.

See § 24.2-101.

Definition [Board]

The State Board of Elections.

See § 24.2-101.

Definition [State]

A state of the United States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the United States Virgin Islands, or any territory or insular possession subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.

See § 24.2-452.

Definition [Person]

Any individual or corporation, partnership, business, labor organization, membership organization, association, cooperative, or other like entity.

For the purpose of applying the filing and reporting requirements of this chapter, the term “person” shall not include an organization holding tax-exempt status under § 501(c) (3), 501(c) (4), or 501(c) (6) of the United States Internal Revenue Code which, in providing information to voters, does not advocate or endorse the election or defeat of a particular candidate, group of candidates, or the candidates of a particular political party.

See § 24.2-945.1.

Definition [Primary]

An election held for the purpose of selecting a candidate to be the nominee of a political party for election to office.

See § 24.2-101.

Definition [Election]

A general, primary, or special election.

See § 24.2-101.

Definition [Precinct]

The territory designated by the governing body of a county, city, or town to be served by one polling place.

See § 24.2-101.

Definition [Candidate]

A person who seeks or campaigns for an office of the Commonwealth or one of its governmental units in a general, primary, or special election and who is qualified to have his name placed on the ballot for the office. “Candidate” shall include a person who seeks the nomination of a political party or who, by reason of receiving the nomination of a political party for election to an office, is referred to as its nominee. For the purposes of Chapters 8 (§ 24.2-800 et seq.), 9.3 (§ 24.2-945 et seq.), and 9.5 (§ 24.2-955 et seq.), “candidate” shall include any write-in candidate. However, no write-in candidate who has received less than 15 percent of the votes cast for the office shall be eligible to initiate an election contest pursuant to Article 2 (§ 24.2-803 et seq.) of Chapter 8. For the purposes of Chapters 9.3 (§ 24.2-945 et seq.) and 9.5 (§ 24.2-955 et seq.), “candidate” shall include any person who raises or spends funds in order to seek or campaign for an office of the Commonwealth, excluding federal offices, or one of its governmental units in a party nomination process or general, primary, or special election; and such person shall be considered a candidate until a final report is filed pursuant to Article 3 (§ 24.2-947 et seq.) of Chapter 9.3.

See § 24.2-101.

Cases

virginia Cases

Out-of-State Cases

Federal Cases

Case Name: Allen v. State Bd. of Elections

Citation: 393 U.S. 544

Federal District Court:

Year: 1969

Case URL: https://www.ravellaw.com/opinions/dea57f2e0264ef7cca2dd4b73d5dc92e

Case Summary: Holding that bulletin issued by State Board to all election judges, instructing that the election judge could aid any qualified voter in the preparation of his ballot if the voter so requests and if the voter is unable to mark his ballot due to illiteracy, must meet the approval requirements of § 5 of the federal Voting Rights Act.

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