Category Archives: Electoral process

Outcome Disputes May Help Kill Electoral College

The status of the National Popular Vote Compact, which goes into effect once enough states have signed on to let the national totals determine their electoral votes.

By Steve Haner

The battle is now rejoined to kill the Electoral College and elect a U.S. President in 2024 based purely on the national vote total. The stubborn refusal of President Donald J. Trump and many other Republicans to accept the November 3 outcome is likely to become a new talking point for Electoral College foes.

Trump and his legal team see a path to victory if they can reverse votes in a handful of states he narrowly lost, by challenging votes or forcing recounts. Without the Electoral College process, the effort would be futile in the face of President-elect Joe Biden’s huge popular vote margin of victory. If the public grows tired of or even angry over the dispute, scrapping the Electoral College entirely may become more attractive.

With House Bill 177, the Virginia House of Delegates voted earlier this year to have Virginia join a compact of other states which have agreed to award their votes in the Electoral College to the highest national vote recipient, without regard to the outcome among their own state’s voters.

That bill was carried over to next session in a State Senate committee, but under Senate rules could be revived if voted on by early December. The chair of that committee, Senator Creigh Deeds, D-Bath County, told Bacon’s Rebellion today he will not be calling that meeting to look at carry-over bills.   Continue reading

14,000 Overlooked Ballots Discovered on Henrico Flash Drive — Yes, It Was an Innocent Error

by James A. Bacon

The conservative blogosphere is ablaze with anecdotes and accusations of Democratic Party voter fraud. I’ll leave it to others to determine if there is any substance to the charges in in locales ranging from Philadelphia to Nevada. But there is one case very close to home — in my home jurisdiction of Henrico County — that bears comment.

Last night, Republic Nick Freitas held a slender lead — 1,350 votes — over incumbent Democrat Abigail Spanberger in the 7th congressional district race. Then, suddenly, the election scoreboard showed that she had leaped ahead with a 5,134-vote lead. The explanation, according to the Virginia Public Access Project: Election officials discovered 14,616 votes that had been overlooked on election night.

“Officials overlooked the ballots, which were saved on a memory stick mislabeled as ‘provisional ballots,'” VPAP tweeted. This batch of ballots broke 64.0% for Spanberger and 34.8% for Freitas.

The conservative blog Just The News highlighted the sudden shift this morning in a headline: “Virginia Democrat Spanberger surges ahead after ‘overlooked’ ballots found on flash drive: Report.” Continue reading

Radical Idea: Elections Should End on Election Day

by Kerry Dougherty

Here are four words Democrats don’t want to hear: “Elections must end sometime.”

They were written by Justice Neil Gorsuch in a recent ruling that required Wisconsin to stop accepting ballots after 8 p.m. on Election Day.

Pity that rule doesn’t apply everywhere in the United States.

I know, I know. States get to make their own election rules. But a little consistency might be nice. In federal elections, anyway.

That way we’d have some hope of knowing who will be the next president during the first week in November rather than getting the news on Thanksgiving. Or worse, Christmas.

The post-election season is going to be crazy this year. Lawyers, start your engines.

Continue reading

Election Board Embraces Humpty Dumpty Logic

by Emilio Jaksetic

Despite receiving more than 700 public comments, most of them negative, Virginia’s State Board of Elections has adopted a regulation eliminating the statutory requirement that absentee ballots received after election day be postmarked by no later than election day. The regulation is effective October 23, 2020. Information about the Board’s action is available here and here.

In a post I made during the run-up to the decision, I discussed how the Board’s “interpretive” regulation violates the plain language of Virginia election law, usurps the constitutional authority of the General Assembly, and sets a precedent for other Virginia officials to violate the rule of law.

In effect, the Board has embraced Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” as a guide to statutory construction and regulatory practice. Continue reading

Virginia Should Reject the National Popular Vote Compact

by Emilio Jaksetic

On February 11, 2020, the Virginia House of Delegates passed House Bill 177. If enacted into law, the legislation would have made Virginia a participant in the National Popular Vote Compact (NPV Compact), and would assign Virginia’s Electoral College votes to the presidential candidate who receives a majority of the popular vote in the United States. On February 25, 2020, the Virginia Senate Privileges and Elections Committee voted to defer consideration of the bill to the 2021 legislative session. The General Assembly should not pass legislation to make Virginia participate in the NPV Compact.

Passage of legislation to make Virginia part of the NPV Compact would nullify the will of a majority of Virginia voters and replace it with the will of a majority of voters in 49 other States and the District of Columbia. Continue reading

Lost Absentees, Found Roll Call, Missing Statues

By Steve Haner

Faulty Absentee Ballot Tracker Still Losing Track

Complaints continue about an absentee ballot tracking system on the Virginia Department of Elections website. Someone with a problem similar to what I encountered in September reached out to Richmond’s WTVR-TV 6 News, which reported that the problem lies with the United States Postal Service. The tracking system is provided by an outside vendor.

Jessenia Eliza, the Director of Government Initiatives at Democracy Works (the outside vendor), told CBS 6 the issue the Duszaks were facing was as a result of their ballot barcodes not being scanned by USPS.

“Ballot Scout relies entirely on USPS data in the state of Virginia. How it works is that as the intelligent mail barcode on ballots are scanned, that information is sent to our tool, and it updates the associated voter record,” explained Eliza. “We’re seeing this here and there with ballots that aren’t moving beyond that ‘in-transit’ status. That typically means just that the USPS didn’t scan it further, not necessarily that the ballot isn’t moving.”

The reporter then spoke with somebody at the state, who said: Continue reading

Virginia Beach’s Nutty Local Elections

by Kerry Dougherty

Last week, a friend who was voting early couldn’t decide whom he should vote for in the At-Large race on the Virginia Beach ballot. So he texted me.

“Who’s your pick?” he asked, adding, “I don’t need the names for Centerville, Kempsville or Rose Hall Districts because I don’t live in those districts.”

Oh no, I thought. Not again. This happens in every damn local election.

Even smart, engaged Beach voters don’t understand the city’s nutty hybrid voting system.

No wonder. It makes no sense.

The Beach doesn’t have a simple ward system, nor does it have a pure at-large system. Instead, Virginia Beach has an 11-member city council, made up of a mayor, three at-large representatives and seven district members. Continue reading

Absentee Tracking System Already Breaking Down?

Tracking on my ballot as of September 30, eight days since the last update.  Click for larger view.

Okay, so where is my absentee ballot? The Virginia Board of Elections tracking system is falling down. This does not inspire confidence and needs to be fixed.

I had the application in well in advance. The ballot was mailed on the first day, a Friday, and our local Postal Service delivery lady worked long hours on Saturday to get them delivered. I assume the absentee ballots were the reason mail was delivered at 8 p.m. that day. Thank you, Ma’am.

I had it back in the mail Monday morning and as you can see above, the tracking service had it on its way to the Henrico Board of Elections by Tuesday, September 22. But the tracking has not been updated since that time. I’ve given it a week.

UPDATE: It turns out there are two trackers, and the other one (here) does show my ballot as received by the county Sept. 23.   That is the tracker I remember from before.  So now the mystery is, why the second one?  And why is it not updated when the other one is?  The confusion this might create could be substantial.  The person who sent me the link to the correct tracker reported a similar problem on the newer one for his own ballot.

The second process is being run by an outside vendor, Ballot Scout, and I don’t know when that started. Last June I cast a mail absentee (as a poll worker away from my home precinct I had that legitimate reason) and the tracking was prompt. It will need to be prompt this time if you want confidence in Virginia’s results. Another little wrinkle on this that should raise eyebrows — anybody can check the status of anybody else’s mail absentee on the second one, if you have their first and last name and the address. Huh? Anybody can see in real time if I’ve requested and mailed a ballot or not?

–SDH

Changing the Rules for Absentee Ballots

by Emilio Jaksetic

The Virginia State Board of Elections is proposing to disregard and nullify the statutory requirement that absentee ballots must be postmarked on or before the date of the election.  This proposed administrative action makes a mockery of Virginia election law and is an appalling assault on the rule of law.

The Virginia State Board of Elections is proposing a rule (1VAC20-70-20. “Material omissions from absentee ballots”) that includes the following provision:

F. The [absentee] ballot shall not be rendered invalid based on a missing or illegible postmark if the ballot is received by the general registrar’s office by noon on the third day after the election pursuant to § 24.2-709 of the Code of Virginia but the return envelope does not have a postmark, or the postmark is missing or illegible.”

On the Virginia Regulatory Town Hall page, the State Board of Elections posted an explanation of its proposed action, and has the nerve to state “The new subsection (F) clarifies that a missing postmark is an immaterial omission . . . .”

Clarification?  Nonsense. The proposed change is contrary to the plain language of the relevant Virginia Code provision. Continue reading

Special Interests Behind the Anti-Interest Candidate

MONEY IN POLITICS

By Steve Haner

Welcome to the current state of politics, where an incumbent preens as being free from special interest funding and their sworn enemy, all while the special interests spend millions seeking to tear down the challenger.

House Bill 827, approved by the 2020 General Assembly, did not really provide additional employment protection for Virginia’s pregnant women. It created a new state-level bureaucratic shillelagh to use if they felt aggrieved, backed up by the threat of state lawsuits and punitive damages.  Continue reading

The Trojan Horse Amendment

By Dick Hall-Sizemore

I need some help sorting out a dilemma I find myself in.

I am strongly in favor of the concept of authorizing an independent commission to draw legislative district lines. On the other hand, I really do not like the proposed amendment to the Virginia Constitution that would create such a commission.

During the debate last session, two objections were the most prominent. The members of the Legislative Black Caucus objected strenuously that the proposed amendment did not guarantee that minorities would be represented on the commission. I am not swayed by that argument. There is ample opportunity to have minorities appointed as citizen members. Furthermore, the voting rights of minorities are protected by the Voting Rights Act. If any redistricting plan produced by the commission unfairly violated the voting rights of minorities, it would be struck down by the federal courts. The Republicans found this out a couple of years ago. Continue reading

Dems Suppress Black Presidential Candidate

Democrats’ commitment to fight voter suppression apparently does not extend to candidate suppression. Backed by the prominent Democratic law firm Perkins Coie, two Suffolk residents have sued to kick black rapper/entrepreneur Kanye West off the presidential ballot in Virginia on the grounds that signature gatherers for West deceived them.

According to the Washington Post, Attorney General Mark Herring, a Democrat,  filed a motion for an emergency hearing today and filed a brief highlighting deficiencies in 13 elector oaths.

West’s real offense, of course, is threatening to drain African-American votes from Joe Biden. The Dems purport to support black voting rights…. but only as long as it helps Democrats win elections. Dems sue to create more black-majority districts… as long as it helps elect more Democrats. But when African-Americans think for themselves and run as independents or Republicans they must be suppressed.

Update: A circuit court Judge has ordered state election authorities to remove West from the ballot, saying that some signatures were gathered illegally. Dems were certainly within their rights to take West off the ballot… but the optics still look bad.

— JAB

Note to readers: I had hoped to do more blogging this week while at the beach, but my laptop crashed, and my blogging capabilities are severely curtailed.

Pining for the Days of Hanging Chads

A Virginia voting booth. How quaint!

by James A. Bacon

It’s been twenty years since the Bush-Gore presidential election that brought the term “hanging chads” into common parlance. But that controversy, which plunged the nation into intense partisan acrimony, was mere dress rehearsal for what could be coming. Thanks to the COVID-19 epidemic, there likely will be an unprecedented volume of mail-in ballots in the 2020 presidential election. And if you thought it was difficult determining votes from punch cards that left dangling bits of paper, just wait until we start sorting out the confusion over mail-in ballots.

The potential for electoral chaos was driven home here in Virginia by the recent mass mailing of mail-in ballot request forms by a Washington, D.C., nonprofit, the Center for Voter Information. A new Virginia law allowing no-excuse early voting for the 45-day period before election day. Asserting that voting by mail “keeps you healthy and safe,” the mailer urged voters to “just sign, date and complete the application.” The application forms had the recipient’s name and address pre-filled out.

“Our phones have been ringing off the hook because of the absentee ballot forms,” Susan Saunders, Suffolk’s voter registrar, told the Suffolk News Herald. “It has created vast confusion.” Continue reading

How To Lessen the November 3 Polling Train Wreck

By Steve Haner

If the state and the major political parties do not spend substantial time educating voters about how voting rules have changed, and what has not changed, the lines and delays on November 3 will be incredible.  This voter education must start now. The Northam Administration is not known for effective communication, sadly.

The Virginia Public Access Project has posted a useful illustrated “how to” on voting absentee by mail, pointing to some things which have changed. But even it glosses over something key that has not changed: To apply on-line for an absentee ballot by mail, you still need to provide formal identification.

The first request in the on-line application is for your Virginia driver’s license number. Lacking that, it seeks some other numbered state-issued identification. You must also provide your Social Security number. Requesting and actually checking the voter’s data provides some assurance ballots will be mailed to real persons at their actual addresses.

The additional safety procedure of requiring the signature of a witness to that ballot, however, is under assault in the courts again. It was waived in June and the pandemic is still with us. Waiving it again simply feeds the claims that the process cannot be trusted.  Continue reading

Trust the USPS With the Next Election?

by Kerry Dougherty

I’m playing postman, I thought a couple of weeks ago as I delivered mail to four of my neighbors.

That was the day that every single envelope in my mailbox was addressed to someone else. It was a record. Usually there are no more than one or two wayward envelopes.

Our regular mail carrier was on vacation, I learned, as if that excuses such incompetence.

But where’s MY mail, I wondered later when no one brought so much as one of those ubiquitous Bed, Bath and Beyond coupons.

Everyone has at least one postal horror story. Here’s another one of mine:

Several years ago my niece in Greensboro, N.C., had a baby. It was our family’s first grandchild and much excitement ensued. I found a beautiful blanket for that cherub, wrapped it, addressed it and sent it Priority Mail. You know, so it would arrive promptly. Continue reading