RICHMOND (September 1, 2021) – Attorney General Herring has issued an official opinion concluding that early voting locations are considered “polling places”, which means firearms are prohibited at these locations under Virginia Code § 24.2-604(A)(iv) while they are being used as polling places, however, those prohibitions do not apply to the whole building where the polling place is, but only to the 40-foot boundary around the part of the building that houses the polling place.
“No Virginian should ever feel unsafe when they are voting, whether they are voting in person on Election Day or whether they are voting in-person early,” said Attorney General Herring. “Last year, I made it a top priority to ensure safe, secure voting across the Commonwealth, and I intend to do the same during this year’s election cycle.”
As Attorney General Herring explains in his opinion, “[i]f the central absentee voter precincts, voter satellite offices, and offices of general registrars are designated locations for early voting in the locality, they are ‘polling places’ as defined in § 24.2-101…[I]t is my opinion that firearms are prohibited at central absentee voter precincts, voter satellite offices, and offices of general registrars where they are the designated locations for early voting in the locality, in the same way, that firearms are prohibited at polling places when the polls are open on Election Day.”
Attorney General Herring adds that Virginia Code “§ 24.2-604(A)(iv) prohibits the knowing possession of a firearm ‘within 40 feet of any building, or part thereof, used as a polling place.’ For those polling places that are not located in school buildings where the possession of a firearm is already prohibited by § 18.2 308.1(B), it is my opinion that the firearm prohibition in § 24.2-604(A)(iv) applies to the 40-foot boundary around the portion of the building being used as a polling place, including any entrances and exits, and not the entire building.”
Attorney General Herring concludes the opinion by saying, “It is my opinion that locations such as central absentee voter precincts, voter satellite offices, and offices of general registrars that are used as the designated location for early voting are considered ‘polling places’ such that the prohibitions of § 24.2-604(A)(iv) apply. Further, it is my opinion that the prohibitions of § 24.2-604(A)(iv) do not apply to the entire building that houses a polling place, but rather to the 40-foot boundary around the discrete portion of that building that is used as the polling place.”
Attorney General Herring’s Work Protecting Voters
Protecting Virginians’ voting rights has been a top priority for Attorney General Herring during his time in office. During the COVID pandemic, Attorney General Herring has worked hard to ensure that all Virginians could vote safely and easily, regardless of how they chose to vote, and protect voters from illegal harassment or intimidation at the polls.
Because of all the work that Attorney General Herring and his team did in preparation for Election Day 2020, including making it clear that absolutely no voter intimidation would be tolerated in Virginia and preparing and planning for any and all outcomes or potential legal challenges, the Commonwealth saw a remarkably smooth and uneventful Election day. In addition to the OAG attorneys who normally represent the Board of Elections and the Department of Elections, Attorney General Herring assembled a multidisciplinary team of attorneys from his Civil Litigation and Public Safety Divisions, Solicitor General’s Office, and other divisions across the OAG, who were on standby, ready to jump into action at a moment’s notice should the need have arisen. The OAG also had lawyers in every corner of the Commonwealth who were prepared to go into court to handle any potential legal challenges.
Virginia also saw historic turnout during last year’s election, especially in early and absentee voting. This increase in voter participation was really possible in part because of Attorney General Herring’s work to make voting as easy and safe as possible during this unprecedented election cycle by crafting agreements to waive the witness signature on absentee ballots, making it easier for disabled Virginians to vote safely at home, extending the voter registration deadline, and blocking the drastic operational changes at the USPS.
Last year’s election cycle brought numerous challenges that prompted Attorney General Herring and his team to develop solutions and put out guidance to make sure every Virginian had a safe, comfortable, easy voting experience, whether they chose to vote early absentee, early in person, or on Election Day.
Attorney General Herring and his team negotiated options to promote safe, secure voting for Virginians who could not or did not want to risk their health to vote in person, including:
• An agreement that waived the witness requirement for absentee ballots for Virginians who feared for their safety voting in person
• An agreement that made it easier for Virginians with disabilities to participate in the election safely at home
Attorney General Herring also successfully blocked the Trump Administration’s drastic operational changes to the U.S. Postal Service, when a federal judge granted his motion for a preliminary injunction, explicitly saying in his order that, “at the heart of DeJoy’s and the Postal Service’s actions is voter disenfranchisement.”
Additionally, Attorney General Herring put a lot of emphasis on ensuring that Virginians felt comfortable and protected at polling places across the Commonwealth by:
• Issuing an advisory opinion outlining the protections in both state and federal law against voter intimidation and harassment in response to some reports of potential voter intimidation at a polling place in Fairfax, the day after early voting began in Virginia
• Reiterating the voter intimidation protections and outlining the actual duties of poll watchers in Virginia, following President Trump’s alarming rhetoric at the first presidential debate where he urged his supports to “go into the polls and watch very carefully”
• Writing to key law enforcement and elections stakeholder organizations asking for their commitment to ensuring a safe, fair, free, and accurate election, and outlining protections in both state and federal law to prevent voter intimidation and harassment
• Producing a short training video that walks law enforcement and elections officials through his voter intimidation opinion and the various tools that they can use to address potentially unlawful conduct
New information technology and cybersecurity legislation goes into effect in Virginia on July 1, 2022
RICHMOND – Starting today, July 1, 2022, new state laws take effect that impact information technology (IT) and cybersecurity in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The first piece of legislation expands the requirements for public bodies when it comes to reporting cybersecurity incidents. As of July 1, every state and local public body must report to the Virginia Fusion Intelligence Center all incidents that:
• Threaten the security of the Commonwealth’s data or communications;
• Result in the exposure of data protected by federal or state laws; or
• Compromise the security of the public entity or agency’s IT systems with the potential to cause major disruption to normal activities.
These reports must be made within 24 hours of discovering an incident.
Additionally, the legislation requires the Chief Information Officer (CIO) of the Commonwealth to convene a workgroup of state and local stakeholders. The workgroup, which started meeting in May, is reviewing current cybersecurity reporting and information-sharing practices and will make recommendations on best practices regarding such reports.
“Cybersecurity is a priority of critical importance for the Commonwealth of Virginia, as is focused coordination of government of all levels and entities,” said Deputy Secretary of Cybersecurity of the Commonwealth Aliscia Andrews. “The implementation of this legislation provides a golden opportunity for us to connect, learn about our collective strengths, and be ready to respond.”
“Last year, we reported over 66 million cyberattack attempts on our systems in the Commonwealth. That’s a rate of 2.12 attacks every second,” said CIO of the Commonwealth Robert Osmond. “When we see the intensity and sophistication with which cyber attackers are carrying out these threats, we know that we need every resource available to strengthen our cybersecurity infrastructure. VITA looks forward to collaborating with our partners to help keep all our systems, ways of conducting business, and, ultimately, our services and our people, safe.”
The second piece of legislation transforms the Information Technology Advisory Council (ITAC) into a body with members from the private sector as well as legislators, increases the number of council members, and adds cybersecurity to the ITAC’s advisory area. Member appointments to the new ITAC should be completed soon, and the council is expected to begin meeting later this year.
For more information about VITA and its mission, visit VITA’s website.
The Virginia IT Agency proudly serves the Commonwealth’s 65 executive branch agencies, a workforce of 55,000 state employees, and 8.6 million Virginians. VITA connects Virginians to critical government services through information and innovation technology, infrastructure, cybersecurity, and governance.
New law allows DMV to grant extended license validity to military and others
Effective July 1, 2022, certain license holders are able to apply with the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) for driver’s license extensions of up to six years for military and foreign service members serving outside of Virginia and government contractors working outside the United States; and up to two years for those showing good cause for extensions. Prior to July 1, those extensions were valid for up to three years and one year, respectively.
“We understand the challenges faced by our military, foreign service, and government contractor customers with deployments and assignments keeping them on the move,” said Acting DMV Commissioner Linda Ford. “Similarly, we know that things like long-term medical treatment or caring for a loved one in another state can create hardships for any of us. We’re pleased to be able to work with customers in these situations to further extend driver’s licenses, giving them one less thing to worry about.”
The change stems from HB 540, introduced by Delegate Danica Roem (D–Prince William), passed by the General Assembly during the 2022 session, and signed into law by Governor Glenn Youngkin.
In all cases, customers need to complete an application process and provide supporting documentation in order to qualify for a driver’s license extension. Currently, extended customers can apply for the newly enacted extensions, up to the six and two-year limits, via the same application process they originally followed.
More information, including complete application instructions, is available at:
https://www.dmv.virginia.gov/general/#outsideva/military.asp (for military members)
https://www.dmv.virginia.gov/general/#outsideva/diplomat.asp (for diplomats)
https://www.dmv.virginia.gov/general/#outsideva/contractors.asp (for government contractors).
Customers who need information on hardship extensions may visit www.dmvNOW.com and click Contact Us.
Governor Glenn Youngkin issues Executive Order reforming Virginia’s regulatory process
Richmond, VA – On June 30, 2022, Governor Youngkin signed Executive Order #19 establishing the Office of Regulatory Management within the Office of the Governor to provide transparency, streamline regulatory management, and fulfill Governor Youngkin’s commitment to reduce 25% of Virginia’s regulatory burdens.
“Last year, I pledged to Virginians that we would remove 25% of the regulatory requirements in the Commonwealth. In the spirit of this objective, we have created the Office of Regulatory Management, led by Andrew Wheeler, which will create much-needed transparency and efficiency in Virginia’s regulatory process to ensure that we have a government that works for the citizens of the Commonwealth,” said Governor Youngkin.
The Office of Regulatory Management (ORM) will streamline regulatory activities across the executive branch and manage cross-departmental functions such as regulations, permits, and grants. The ORM will review all agency regulations and initiate the “Unified Regulatory Plan” by which all agencies will annually publish a publicly available list of all expected regulations for the upcoming year. This Executive Order also calls for tracking new regulatory requirements for each new effective regulation and reviewing all existing regulations every four years.
This Executive Order enhances transparency by requiring the posting of all proposed regulations on Virginia’s Regulatory Town Hall website. The new regulatory review process will require agencies to conduct cost-benefit and other analyses of their proposed regulations to ensure they are not overly burdensome on other public bodies or private citizens.
Celebrate smart, safe & sober this July 4th holiday weekend
Independence Day traditions include backyard barbecues, festivals, family gatherings, and fireworks. To keep all those living, working, visiting, and traveling through Virginia safe during the extended holiday weekend, the Virginia State Police is encouraging Virginians to play it smart and plan ahead to ensure everyone on the road is safe and sober.
“Summer days are filled with celebrations, vacations, outdoor festivals, and backyard cookouts, but no matter where your plans take you, please make safety your priority,” said Colonel Gary T. Settle, Virginia State Police Superintendent. “With fatal traffic crashes on pace this year to mimic last year’s record number, I urge all Virginians to buckle up, eliminate distractions and never drive buzzed, drunk, or under the influence. Together we can make this Independence Day the safest on record!”
If planning to drink alcohol at a July 4 function, plan ahead and arrange a designated driver, use a rideshare service or taxi, or utilize public transportation to be certain you get home safely. Party hosts are encouraged to serve non-alcoholic beverage options, and to help prevent any guests from drinking and driving home from their event.
As part of its ongoing efforts to increase safety and reduce traffic fatalities on Virginia’s highways during the coming holiday weekend, Virginia State Police will increase patrols from 12:01 am Friday (July 1, 2022) through midnight Monday (July 4, 2022) as part of the Operation Crash Awareness Reduction Effort (C.A.R.E.). Operation C.A.R.E. is a state-sponsored, national program intended to reduce crashes, fatalities, and injuries due to impaired driving, speed, and failing to wear a seat belt.
During last year’s four-day Independence Day Operation C.A.R.E initiative, there were 12 traffic deaths on Virginia highways. Virginia troopers arrested 61 drivers operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs, cited 4,025 speeders and 1,434 reckless drivers, and issued 510 citations to individuals for failing to obey the law and buckle up. Troopers also assisted 1,550 disabled/stranded motorists.
With increased holiday patrols, Virginia State Police also reminds drivers of Virginia’s “Move Over” law, which requires motorists to move over when approaching an emergency vehicle stopped alongside the road. If unable to move over, then drivers are required to cautiously pass the emergency vehicle. The law also applies to workers in vehicles equipped with amber lights.
DMV reminds Virginians to make a plan before celebrating this Fourth of July
The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) reminds Virginians to celebrate responsibly and designate a sober driver before the Fourth of July festivities begin.
Last year, during the Fourth of July holiday period (July 2-July 5, 2021) there were 105 crashes, 56 injuries, and two deaths related to alcohol on the Commonwealth’s roads.
“Preventing an alcohol-related tragedy is simple – do not drive after drinking any alcohol, period,” said Acting DMV Commissioner Linda Ford, the Governor’s Highway Safety Representative. “Even one drink can impair judgment on the road. And if your holiday celebrations involve alcohol, be sure to designate a sober driver before the party begins to ensure a safe ride home.”
Celebrate this Fourth of July weekend responsibly:
- If you are planning to drink at an event, plan a safe ride home before even arriving.
- If someone you know has been drinking, do not let that person get behind the wheel.
- If you do decide to drink, do not drive for any reason. Arrange a ride from a sober friend, a taxi, or a ride-sharing service.
- If you are serving alcohol at your party, make sure all guests leave with a sober driver.
- Everyone in the vehicle should be wearing a seat belt – it’s your best defense against impaired drivers.
- Slow down and if you see an impaired driver on the road, contact law enforcement – your actions could save a life.
Virginia’s annual crime analysis report now available on Virginia State Police website
Virginia’s official and only comprehensive report on local and statewide crime figures for 2021, titled Crime in Virginia, is now available online at the Virginia State Police website on the VSP CJIS Data Analysis & Reporting Team page. Crime in Virginia continues to provide precise rates and occurrences of crimes committed in towns, cities and counties across the Commonwealth. The report breaks down criminal offenses and arrests by reporting agency.
Violent crime includes the offenses of murder, forcible sex offenses (rape, sodomy and sexual assault with an object per the FBI’s updated rape definition), robbery and aggravated assault. Overall, the violent crime rate increased in 2021 to 194.4 (per 100,000 population) from 183.0 in 2020. There were 16,823 violent crime offenses reported in 2021 compared to 15,713 violent crime offenses reported in 2020, representing a 7.1% increase.
The following 2021 crime figures in Virginia are presented in the report:
- The number of reported homicides increased from 528 to 562 (6.4%). The murder/non-negligent manslaughter rate increased from 6.15 in 2020 to 6.49 in 2021 (per 100,000 population). Victims and offenders tended to be younger males; 38.6% of homicide victims were men between 18 and 34 and 55.7% of known offenders were men between 18 and 34. Nearly half (47.5%) of all homicides occurred at a residence/home.
- Motor vehicle thefts and attempted thefts increased 3.8% compared to 2020. During 2021, there were 11,638 motor vehicles reported stolen in 11,249 offenses. In 2021, 7,589 motor vehicles were recovered (vehicles may have been stolen prior to 2021). Of all motor vehicles stolen, 35.4% were taken from the residence/home. The reported value of all motor vehicles stolen was $131,738,135.
- Drug arrests decreased by nearly half (46.7%) with the largest percentage decrease in arrestees under age 25 (67.6%). The number of reports of drugs seized decreased for nearly all drug types, especially marijuana (67%), due in part to decriminalization of possessing less than 1 ounce of the drug effective July 1, 2020 and Code of Virginia §18.2-250.1 being repealed July 1, 2021.
- Burglary decreased by 8.3% between 2020 and 2021. In fact, burglaries and attempted burglaries have steadily declined over the past ten years. In 2021, there were 10,464 burglaries and attempted burglaries whereas in 2011 there were 27,872, representing a decreased burglary rate in the last decade from 344.24 to 120.89 per 100,000 population.
- Fraud offenses increased 8.4% compared to 2020. Nearly 80% of victims (79.9%) were individuals while 11.3% were businesses. Nearly a quarter (23.2%) of fraud victims were over the age 65.
- Of the known weapons reported for violent crimes, firearms were used in 82.1% of homicides and 48.6% of robberies. Firearms were used in more than one-third (38.7%) of aggravated assault cases.
- There were 123 hate crime offenses, involving 106 victims, reported in 2021. This represents a 35.3% decrease compared to 2020. Most hate crimes (69.8%) were racially or ethnically motivated. Bias toward sexual orientation and religion were next highest (19.0%, 8.7%, respectively). Of all reported bias motivated crimes, 75.6% were assault offenses (aggravated assault, simple assault) or destruction/damage/vandalism of property.
The report employs an Incident Based Reporting (IBR) method for calculating offenses, thus allowing for greater accuracy. IBR divides crimes into two categories: Group A for serious offenses including violent crimes (murder, forcible sex offenses, robbery and aggravated assault), property crimes and drug offenses, and Group B for what are considered less serious offenses such as trespassing, disorderly conduct, and liquor law violations where an arrest has occurred.
Per state mandate, the Department of Virginia State Police serves as the primary collector of crime data from participating Virginia state and local police departments and sheriff’s offices. The data are collected by the Virginia State Police Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division via a secured internet system. This information is then compiled into Crime in Virginia, an annual report for use by law enforcement, elected officials, media and the general public. These data become the official crime statistics for the Commonwealth and are sent to the FBI for incorporation into their annual report, Crime in the United States.