By Associated Press - Wednesday, April 29, 2020

RICHMOND, Va. — Some Virginians submitting absentee ballots in the June primary will not be required to have a witness sign the envelope, the state’s attorney general announced Tuesday.

Officials will accept absentee ballots without a witness signature “for voters who believe they may not safely have a witness present while completing their ballot,” the Office of the Attorney General said in a statement, citing the order submitted to a federal court.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring said the agreement would protect voting rights and public health amid the coronavirus pandemic by not forcing voters to break social distancing orders to seek out a witness.

State law mandates voters who send an absentee ballot through the mail open the envelope in front of another person and ask the witness to sign it before the ballot is returned. But the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Lynchburg arguing the law could make those who live alone put themselves at risk in order to vote, The Roanoke Times reported.

The agreement will only be in effect for the June 23 election, according to officials. The order is pending final approval in court.

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