Virginia lawmakers pass bill to swap holiday honoring Confederate generals for Election Day

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Virginia State Capitol via Joe Daniel Price/Getty Images

(CNN) — State lawmakers in Virginia have passed a bill that would strike a day honoring Confederate generals from its list of state holidays, replacing it with one marking Election Day, instead.

The Virginia House on Monday approved the measure to remove Lee-Jackson Day, a holiday celebrating Gens. Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson as “defenders of causes,” and to designate Election Day as a state holiday in its place. The bill, which had already passed the state Senate, moves on to Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, who supports the measure, for approval.

Under the bill, Election Day will be a legal holiday on the Tuesday following the first Monday in November, “for the right of citizens of a free society to exercise the right to vote,” according to the bill’s text.

Lee-Jackson Day has been observed annually on the Friday before the third Monday in January — the Friday before Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Lee and Jackson were Virginia natives. Both owned slaves and fought to preserve slavery in the US.

According to the bill’s impact statement, Election Day had been a legal Virginia holiday before it was removed in 1989.

The bill was among Northam’s 2020 legislative proposals.

“We need to make Election Day a holiday,” he said in his State of the Commonwealth speech in January. “We can do it by ending the Lee-Jackson holiday that Virginia holds. … It commemorates a lost cause. It’s time to move on.”

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