(RICHMOND) — Virginia is trying to move on from its Confederate past, voting Thursday to eliminate a state holiday honoring Gens. Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.
The Virginia House of Delegates, which gained a Democratic majority this year after more than 20 years under GOP control, voted 55 to 42 in favor of the change. The Virginia Senate approved a similar bill, 22 to 18, last month, and Gov. Ralph Northam said he supports the measure.
The bill will swap Lee-Jackson Day for Election Day as a state holiday.
Lee-Jackson Day, which was celebrated on the Friday before Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, was created in 1899 to honor Lee. Jackson was added to the celebrations five years later.
“Making election day a holiday serves a much more honorable purpose in this day and age than celebrating the ghosts of Virginia’s Confederate past,” Del. Joe Lindsey, a Democrat and the House bill’s sponsor, said in a statement.
Election Day was a state holiday in Virginia until 1989 when the Virginia General Assembly had it removed.
Lee was commander of the Confederate States Army during the Civil War until its surrender in 1865. Jackson was another top commander in the Confederacy until his death by friendly fire in 1863.
Over the last few years, several Virginia cities, including Charlottesville and Richmond, stopped recognizing Lee-Jackson Day as part of the ongoing debate over honoring the Confederacy.
The Virginia legislature has several bills in this year’s session that aim to make it easier to vote in the state, including one that would eliminate its 8-year-old voter ID law. The state Senate passed its version of the bill Tuesday.
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