by Ken Reid
The new post-redistricting Virginia General Assembly that will take control in January, probably with a Democrat majority, will be the most ethnically, racially and religiously diverse group of legislators in Richmond in history, and about ¼ will be female.
In addition, some 52 of the 140 members of the General Assembly will be totally new to the State Capitol – most never having served in any elected office before.
This make-up is largely due to the huge number of retirements from the last GA, which was primarily forced by bipartisan redistricting in 2021, where a number of incumbents were placed in the same district and chose not to run against each other for re-election.
Whites will be the minority in the Democrat Caucus in each house, which also could be a first. The House of Delegates as a whole will be 67% white, down from 78% after the 2017 “Blue wave” elections, when Republicans maintained control by a coin toss – and that’s because the overwhelming number of Republicans are white.
In the State Senate, 30 of the 40 senators will be white in 2024, largely due to the Republican presence.
This analysis, based on examining the biographies of the new GA members on Ballotpedia, shows the following breakdown, though one race (the 82nd house race between incumbent Republican Kim Taylor and Democrat challenger Kim Adams) is headed to a recount with Taylor ahead by 78 votes Continue reading
by Joe Fitzgerald
I once told a candidate for Harrisonburg City Council that ten thousand people would show up to vote and more than half would never have heard of him. Referring to the expense and effort of campaigning, he asked, “Why the Hell am I doing this then?”
The answer might be to give the voters a fighting chance. City Council actions affect day-to-day lives more than decisions made in Richmond or D.C., but the elections themselves are, if not hidden, at least subsumed into races that get more attention.
State and federal Democratic campaigns in one three-year period, 2012-14, hired at least eight people full-time and paid 30-plus months of office rental. Even allowing for the relatively low pay (and brutally long hours) for campaign organizers, that’s somewhere north of $200,000 over that period, just on one side of the political aisle. The Republican side would be close to the same. That rough guess of $400K over three years doesn’t include state senate and delegate races at a quarter million a pop for strongly-contested races.
City Council races bring in and spend much less money and are harder to analyze. For instance, one council candidate had the Planning Commission chair design a website for him and claimed it was a $4,000 donation. The astonishing thing about campaign finance in Virginia is how much is actually legal, not just in what is raised but in how it’s reported. Continue reading
by Dick Hall-Sizemore
I just finished my first stint as an election official. I was surprised by some aspects but, upon retrospect, I should not have been surprised.
Voters came in steadily throughout the day, with some backups occurring. The biggest push was between 5:15 and 6:15, when the line was much longer. But it cleared fairly quickly and voters did not have to wait more than about 15 minutes at the most.
About 1,350 folks voted, which constituted a turnout of 35 percent of the active registered voters in the precinct.
Some of that turnout undoubtedly was the result of the failure of voters to know about, and understand, the changes wrought by redistricting. The precinct’s candidates for the House and Senate in the General Assembly were unopposed Democrats. However, Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant (R) had represented the area for many years in the General Assembly. Redistricting put her in a new district which did not include this precinct. She was being challenged by Del. Schuyler VanValkenburg (D), who has represented the precinct in the House of Delegates for several years. That contest is one of the key ones in the state and there has been heavy advertising on TV by both candidates. Many voters were puzzled and frustrated when they found that neither Dunnavant nor VanValkenburg was on their ballots. I overheard one man lamenting that he had come to the polls specifically to vote against one of those candidates. Continue reading
by Victoria Snitsar Churchill
In the heart of Virginia’s Senate District 31 race, where political fervor has ignited a spirited campaign, allegations of voter suppression tactics are taking center stage. Juan Pablo Segura – the Republican contender for the seat – has raised concerns about what he describes as attempts by his opponent Russet Perry’s allies to stifle early voting enthusiasm within the Latino community.
The controversy came to light following a series of vibrant early-voting parties organized by Segura’s campaign. These events aimed to engage voters and encourage their participation in the democratic process. Segura, a Latino candidate himself, found himself dismayed as he observed the response from Perry’s camp.
“It’s telling that when a Latino tries to get other Latinos to get out and vote, Russet Perry’s team treats it as a threat,” Segura remarked. “Voter suppression is not a governing philosophy, so to all Senate District 31 voters: please keep coming to our fun early voting parties!”
The alleged suppression attempts have been raising eyebrows across Virginia’s political landscape:
The saga began when the Loudoun County Parks and Rec Department attempted to shut down a Hispanic early-voting party. The event, characterized by the presence of a food truck and a mariachi band, was designed to create a festive atmosphere that would encourage community members to cast their votes for Segura. Continue reading
Susan Beals, Commissioner,
Va. Dept. of Elections
by Dick Hall-Sizemore
Remember my earlier report on the Youngkin administration cancelling the registrations of voters eligible to vote? These were felons whose voting rights had been restored who had committed a parole violation, which shows up as a felony in the State Police’s official crime database.
In mid-October, the state Department of Elections reported that there are only about 275 individuals affected. Now, it is up to 3,400.
When VPM, Richmond’s public radio station, first reported the errors, the administration was dismissive of the reports. Later, it minimized the extent of the problem. Now, it is trying to shift the blame. Jeff Goettman, the Governor’s chief of staff, says the administration suspects the errors “are the result of antiquated data systems and insufficient processes maintained over the last 20 plus years.” Anyone who has worked with data knows that, when one grabs a bunch of data that was compiled for one purpose and uses it for an entirely different purpose, one needs to be especially careful and needs to be thoroughly familiar with the dataset that is being relied upon. Anyone except, apparently, the folks at the Department of Elections.
To cover himself, the Governor has ordered the Office of the Inspector General to investigate the “circumstances, data systems, and practices” surrounding this event and, as a counter measure, to prepare a separate report examining whether thousands of residents had been left on the registration rolls despite having been convicted of a new felony.
Rep. Bob Good, Photo credit: Richmond Times Dispatch
by Dick Hall-Sizemore
Here is a recent tweak in election law that did not get a lot of public attention. Effective January 1, 2024, it will be almost impossible for a political party to use a convention to nominate a candidate for a Congressional district seat. On its face the law still allows a political party of a district to determine how the nomination of candidate is made, but the 2021 change makes this stipulation:
A method of nomination shall not be selected if such method will have the practical effect of excluding participation in the nominating process by qualified voters who are otherwise eligible to participate in the nominating process under that political party’s rules but are unable to attend meetings because they are (i) a member of a uniformed service, as defined in § 24.2-452, on active duty; (ii) temporarily residing outside of the United States; (iii) a student attending a school or institution of higher education; (iv) a person with a disability; or (v) a person who has a communicable disease of public health threat as defined in § 32.1-48.06 or who may have come in contact with a person with such disease. However, such restriction shall not apply when selecting a candidate for a special election or nominating a candidate pursuant to § 24.2-539, or in the event that no candidate files the required paperwork by the deadline prescribed in § 24.2-522. Continue reading
Susan Beals, Commissioner,
Va. Dept. of Elections
by Dick Hall-Sizemore
Governor Youngkin talks a lot about election integrity. By that, he obviously means keeping people ineligible to vote from voting. However, integrity cuts another way, as well. It means allowing people who are eligible to vote the opportunity to vote.
The governor’s Department of Elections (Elections) seems not to worry too much about that second aspect of election integrity. Last fall, due to a computer glitch, the agency discovered that it had not processed thousands of new voter registrations completed by the Department of Motor Vehicles and had to scramble to notify local registrars of the eligibility of those folks as early voting was underway. This year, it is another group of registered voters who have been disenfranchised. Continue reading
by Martin Davis and Shaun Kenney
Last week, Cardinal News published a piece by reporter Markus Schmidt about the difficulties facing several Democratic candidates for state and local offices in Virginia, owing to complications with their paperwork.
Mistakes related to paperwork happen every year, and sometimes the Virginia Department of Elections can sort out the problem. Schmidt’s story notes two instances in recent years when this happened. Notably, in 2019, when the department accepted late paperwork for Del. Terry Kilgore, R-Scott County, and in 2021, when it placed Del. Dave LaRock, R-Loudoun County, on the ballot despite a missed deadline.
City and county registrars, however, are the people who are on the front lines of most issues relating to candidates’ paperwork issues. And these people are often caught between conflicting interpretations of critical statutes.
In Spotsylvania County, concern over signatures collected by two candidates for local office provides an interesting look into the challenges local registrars face. It also reveals some issues with the way the state is relaying information to candidates and registrars. Continue reading
Sen. Amanda Chase
by Shaun Kenney
State Senator Amanda Chase (I-Chesterfield) was soundly rejected by her own district in the June 20th primary, where participants were ostensibly pledged to support the nominee, win or lose.
Of course, Senate Democrats are hanging on by a thread, knowing full well that Senate Republicans are in a prime position to overwhelmingly trounce a leftist opposition party that has only doubled down on failed policies in Richmond and elsewhere.
For years, it had been speculated that Chase was held in thrall to her funders — Clean Virginia being prime among them — who were keen to paint Republicans in the worst possible light.
Those same progressive dark money groups may have found their candidate, per WTVR:
“If you give me a 1 percent chance to contest something I’m going to stand up for the people who voted and supported me,” she said.
Chase said she planned to launch a write-in campaign in the fall so she could still have a shot to hold her Senate seat in November.
Chase also stated she raised $10,000 to help get a legal consult to fight her loss.
“We didn’t want to file a frivolous lawsuit. We didn’t want to file a lawsuit that didn’t have any standing. It took some time to raise the money and took some time to have our attorneys take a look at the best strategy moving forward and we believe is going to the state board of elections,” she said.
Unfortunately for Chase, the Virginia State Board of Elections has already certified the outcome of her June 20th nomination contest. Continue reading
by Kerry Dougherty
It’s strange to think that I will never again get up on Election Day and head to the polls. I’ll never again take my granddaughter with me to see me fill out my ballot and drop it into the ballot counter. I’ll never again grab two “I Voted” stickers — one for her and one for me.
I’m voting absentee from now on, something I swore I’d never do.
Let me explain. In January’s special election to fill the 7th District State Senate seat left vacant when Republican Jen Kiggans was elected to Congress, Democrat Aaron Rouse won by a razor-thin majority of 696 votes with 50.84 percent of the vote. The district is split between part of Norfolk and part of Virginia Beach. Republican Kevin Adams won the Election Day contest and even the early voting.
But what clinched the election for Rouse were absentee ballots in Virginia Beach, traditionally a Republican stronghold. Of the 5,884 absentee ballots returned, 4,283 were for Rouse.
Here, look at the results: Continue reading
Voting booths in Portsmouth. Photo credit: Virginian-Pilot
by Dick Hall-Sizemore
On behalf of three Virginia residents, the Virginia ACLU, along with a large D.C. law firm, has filed suit in federal court challenging the provision of Virginia’s constitution that disenfranchises anyone convicted of a felony, providing that their voting rights can be restored only by the governor.
Such a legal challenge is not necessarily new, but the basis for this one is novel and fascinating The plaintiffs claim that the provision of the Virginia constitution is illegal because it violates the provisions of the federal law that allowed for the Commonwealth’s readmission to the Union after the Civil War. That law included this provision, similar to that included for laws applicable to other member states of the Confederacy:
That the State of Virginia is admitted to representation in Congress as one of the States of the Union upon the following fundamental conditions: First, that the Constitution of Virginia shall never be so amended or changed as to deprive any citizen or class of citizens of the United States of the right to vote who are entitled to vote by the Constitution herein recognized, except as a punishment for such crimes as are now felonies at common law, whereof they shall have been duly convicted under laws equally applicable to all the inhabitants of said State. [Emphasis added.] Continue reading
by Andrea Epps
It’s no secret that I was thrilled to watch Glen Sturtevant’s name replace Amanda Chase’s on the election night ticker. However, this isn’t about my disdain for Chase, nor my approval of Sturtevant; I don’t even know him.
This is about simple math and what I believe to be a last-ditch effort at a con job by a professional.
I’m sure not many people expected Amanda Chase to do the right thing and concede with grace. No, most of us expected some post-primary cry of foul. I did expect, however, that her foul cry would be based on something that made sense, and it doesn’t.
Since Tuesday, Chase has hit the airwaves and social media with the claim that the early voting in Chesterfield County was rigged. This accusation is ridiculous on its face to anyone who knows about elections in Chesterfield. The registrar’s office has been run like a Swiss watch for years, but even that doesn’t matter in this case. Continue reading
by Jim McCarthy
A February 25 article in Bacon’s Rebellion, “Forget Waldo, Where’s ERIC?” by James Wyatt Whitehouse raised questions about the volunteer national election clearing house organization entitled Electronic Information Registration Center, or ERIC. The BR piece highlighted the experience of the Alabama Secretary of State:
On February 15, 2023, Alabama Secretary of State Wes Allen paid a visit to the ERIC headquarters in Washington, D.C. It is important to note that Mr. Allen withdrew Alabama from participation in ERIC just a few weeks before his visit. Mr. Allen had this to say about his visit to the Connecticut Avenue headquarters of ERIC, Inc.: ‘I was in DC for a meeting of the National Association of Secretaries of States and, since I was in town, I went to see the ERIC Headquarters. What I found was that there was no ERIC headquarters at that address. There were no employees. There were no servers. There was no ERIC presence of any kind. Instead, I found a virtual office that is rentable by the day. What it was missing was people, servers, and any sign of the ERIC team.’
The absence of existential staff and the existence of a virtual office prompted subsequent questions concerning ERIC’s information security and its utility to member states. As noted, Mr. Allen pulled the trigger on his state’s membership weeks before asking his questions. In 2012, Virginia was a founding member of ERIC under the administration of Governor Bob McDonnell.
by Dick Hall-Sizemore
The 2020 and 2021 sessions of the General Assembly enacted numerous bills that made it easier for citizens of the Commonwealth to exercise their right to vote. This article will outline the major changes, analyze their effects, and discuss efforts to repeal or modify these changes.
Following is a summary of the changes:
- Photo ID requirement eliminated;
- Voter must still present ID. In addition to the existing alternative forms of identification, driver’s license, DMV identification card, and student ID, the legislature added current utility bill, bank statement, paycheck, government check or other government document as acceptable forms of identification;
- Anyone not able to present any approved form of ID still allowed to vote, but must sign statement, under penalty of felony if false, that he is the named registered voter;
- Provided for DMV to issue identification privilege card that could be used as ID for voting.
by Dick Hall-Sizemore
It appears that Republicans in some localities are moving to place the election machinery under partisan control.
Before discussing the basis for this allegation, a little background might be useful.
Each city or county has an electoral board consisting of three members. They serve three-year terms, with the terms staggered so that one term ends on December 30 each year. The members are appointed by the chief circuit judge of the locality, or his designee, from lists provided by the political parties that cast the highest and the next highest number of votes for Governor in the last gubernatorial election. Two members of each board shall be from the party that cast the highest number of votes for Governor in that election. However, no member’s term may be shortened to comply with the party representation requirement. All these provisions are set out in Sec. 24.2-106. Continue reading