Category Archives: Electoral process

Now It’s a Party: Local Elections May Be Decided in June for a While

by Joe Fitzgerald

It looks like 12 percent of people voting in Harrisonburg’s Nov. 8 City Council election cast a vote for only one of the four candidates instead of the two they could have voted for. But that number needs more asterisks on it than a home run record.

Single-shot votes are difficult to count. Count isn’t even the right word. Estimate, maybe. Guess, certainly. And although there were three local races, the same guesses and estimates don’t apply to all three, since one was for a single seat, one for two seats, and one for three seats.

All that means no exact numbers, but some clear trends.

One of those trends is that the city’s voters won’t vote against someone just because they’re Black. Nor will the electorate vote for someone just because the candidate is Black. There will be a three-person African-American majority on City Council come January 1, with one of them elected this year and one re-elected unopposed. But in the School Board race, two Black candidates lost, one of them an incumbent.

Each of the contests was apparently decided based on issues and personalities more than on race. We’re a century away from any southern city being color-blind, but this is as close as we’ll get for a while.

But if race wasn’t an issue, party was. Even without a race for Senate or president at the top of the ballot, the Democratic candidates won the city with almost two-thirds of the vote. The African-American candidates for City Council won with Democratic nominations, while the two running for School Board lost to three candidates endorsed by the Democratic committee.

That means the observation above about issues and personalities may be half-right. They mattered more than race, but less than party. That’s in keeping with my frequent claim about my political predictions and analyses: I’m right more often than anybody in the city and I’m wrong more often than I’m right.
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Ranked-Choice Voting in Virginia? Not Yet (Except Maybe Primaries)

by Ken Reid

A ranked-choice voting system (RCV) is an alternative electoral process that allows people to vote for multiple candidates on a ballot in order of the voter’s preference. RCV has been adopted in at least 60 jurisdictions across the nation, including statewide and federal elections in Maine and Alaska.

Should Virginia counties and cities adopt RCV for upcoming November elections, or should this newfangled system of voting be used only in primaries?

My answer to that question is “no” — but RCV may have some benefit in open primaries where both Democrats and Republicans select a nominee. It is definitely not suitable for local races.

I’ll go into more detail later, but my main concern is that it would be unwise to introduce RCV at a time when polls show some four in 10 voters already do not trust our elections. The majority of those skeptics are pro-Donald Trump Republicans who believe the 2020 election was stolen from him. However, in addition to former President Trump’s bellyaching about his 2020 loss, there are also activists on the left who believe there is ongoing voter suppression. Ranked-choice voting could feed into that belief.

Ranked choice voting (which was also used by the Republican Party of Virginia in its last two statewide drive-thru conventions and by the 10th District’s congressional convention last spring) means the candidates are ranked in order of the voters’ choice. It is being touted for use in primaries to ensure nominees are confirmed by a majority; by states that have runoff elections to obviate people voting twice (as happened in Georgia); and in town and city council “multiple candidate” races where voters are asked to vote for up to three nominees for council and one for mayor.

In 2020, Virginia’s Democrat-controlled General Assembly passed legislation allowing ranked-choice voting and requiring the State Board of Elections to issue regulations on its implementation. The law presently allows ranked-choice voting only for “elections of members of a county board of supervisors or city council.” It cannot be used in elections for constitutional offices, school boards, or mayoral and town council races. So far, Arlington is the only Virginia county to approve ranked-choice voting for its primaries in 2023. It has not approved the method for general elections.

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As Election Day Approaches

Polling stations, Robious Elementary School, Chesterfield County. Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

For most Virginians, this election season has been fairly quiet. In only three of the 11 Congressional districts has there been anything close to a contested election. Some local offices are on the ballot. Here and there is a bond referendum.

There have been two major election issues in the news that have statewide implications. One was the formation of an Elections Integrity Unit in his office by Attorney General Jason Miyares. In September, Miyares issued a news release boldly announcing the “creation” of what he termed “a new unit” that would help “restore confidence in our democratic process in the Commonwealth.” In the face of criticism, he later backed off the concept of it being something new. In an op-ed piece in The Washington Post he explained, “The Election Integrity Unit is simply a restructuring of lawyers, paralegals, and investigators already employed by my office and working on election matters.” In other words, it was just an office reorganization, similar to what all incoming AGs do. If that is all that it was, one wonders why the move merited a full-blown news release. Continue reading

How to Tweak the Drive-Up Voting Process

by Janice Stewart

A few weeks ago, Bacon’s Rebellion writer Jim Sherlock recounted his positive experience with drive-up voting in Virginia Beach. Good deal, I thought. Jim and his wife had an easier voting experience, and he gave the election officials who assisted them high marks. What’s not to like?

Yesterday, I served as an election observer in a Richmond-area early voting location. In preparation, I completed a course in voting procedure. As I read the course material, I began to see ways in which drive-up voting did not conform with some basic precepts and safeguards of voting process.

Let’s look first at what happens when a voter enters a polling place and requests assistance in voting.

The request triggers the filling out of a two-part form. The voter states the assistance needed in the first part, and the person who provides the assistance (an official from the registrar’s office) fills out the second part, so that the person providing the assistance is known in the event of any discrepancy. There are strict rules about what the assisting person can/cannot do, and one of the forbidden things is to “handle the ballot” unless the person requiring assistance is physically unable to do it. Voters must perform as much of the process as they are able, including the feeding of the ballot into the ballot box/machine. The principle that once your ballot is handed to you, only you may handle it and see it until the vote is cast pervades every aspect of voting practice. Continue reading

Oops! Look What We Just Found!

Susan Beals, Commissioner of Elections Photo credit: Virginia Mercury

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

The Youngkin Department of Elections just recently began processing more than 107,000 voter registration applications dating back to last spring. This is after early voting had begun.

These applications involved residents who had registered through the Department of Motor Vehicles. The snafu is blamed on a computer “glitch” that caused “intermittent network issues within the Department of Elections” that resulted in the Department of Elections not picking up on the applications. No one in that office seemed to notice the sudden drop-off in “motor voter” registrations that began in May.

The result is that local registrars had bunches of new registration applications dumped on them during their busiest part of the year. The Chesterfield registrar suddenly had about 5,000 applications to process, for example; Henrico had about 4,500; and Hanover, 1,100. Continue reading

Voter Suppression in Virginia? What Voter Suppression?

by James A. Bacon

The Virginia State Conference of the NAACP has demanded that Attorney General Jason Miyares immediately replace his recently created Election Integrity Unit with a group to combat voter suppression and increase voter registration.

Said Robert N. Barnette, Jr, President of the Virginia NAACP in a statement issued last week:

Many studies have shown that “voter fraud” is virtually nonexistent in the Commonwealth of Virginia and the Washington Post conducted a study that determined that only 31 out of 1 billion votes cast in the United States between 2000 and 2014 were alleged to be potentially fraudulent. The Attorney General should focus on ensuring all eligible Virginians have the right to vote and that all eligible Virginians can vote without threat of intimidation.

It may be true to say that voter fraud rarely rises to the level of changing election outcomes. However, the idea that there were only 31 fraudulent votes out of 1 billion cast is patently absurd. In an article debunking claims of widespread voter fraud, the Associated Press in December 2021 found 475 potential voter fraud cases out of 25 million votes cast. As of May 2020, the Heritage Foundation election fraud database cited 1,285 proven cases in the previous four years.

I’d like to turn the question around. How many cases of voter suppression and/or intimidation in Virginia can the NAACP cite? Continue reading

Imaginary Protection Against Imaginary Threats

Jason Miyares, Attorney General of Virginia

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Attorney General Jason Miyares has taken another step to politicize his office and the enforcement of election laws. As reported by the Virginia Mercury, Miyares has announced the formation of a 20-member “Election Integrity Unit.” The purpose of the unit is to ensure the “legality and purity” of elections.

There has been no evidence, or even credible allegations, of serious fraud in Virginia elections. However, the Attorney General seems to feel that there is a need to have 20 members of his staff working on prosecuting election fraud.

In truth, this is just a political stunt. This “unit” will not have its own budget. The members of the “unit” will not be dedicated to investigating and prosecuting fraud. Rather, the unit will consist of staff members who work on other issues, in addition to election issues. In other words, election fraud will be an incidental part of their jobs. Continue reading

Ranked Choice Voting Coming to Virginia?

by Jon Baliles

Now that state and congressional redistricting are done, the non-partisan group OneVirginia2021 that fought for years to bring sensible, fair redistricting to Virginia has rebranded its name and focus. Nonpartisan experts have generally given the resulting legislative congressional maps high marks for partisan fairness even though some unsuccessfully challenged the new maps drawn by the Supreme Court of Virginia. Regardless, redistricting is done — at least until the next redistricting. But I digress….

The newly-minted organization UpVote Virginia will now put forth as a signature issue, Ranked-Choice Voting (RCV) for localities across the Commonwealth. UpVote Virginia sees it as a winning, bi-partisan issue that will produce or encourage the seeking and building of consensus among office-holders and office-seekers. Continue reading

Disin-Cline-Nation

Representative Ben Cline

by Jim McCarthy

Representative Ben Cline secured more than 80% of the votes cast in the primary in the Virginia’s 6th Congressional District. Fewer than 5% of registered voters participated, and the margin was less than 10% of the votes that elected him in 2020. Since then, the January 6 Committee has commenced its hearings. One might ask what the implication are for Cline, who voted to reject the electoral slates and popular votes of Arizona and Pennsylvania certified to the Congress.

Consider his response to an interview question from The Winchester Star shortly before the primary election.

Reporter: Do you think former President Donald Trump tried to steal the 2020 election, and what should be done about what happened on Jan. 6?

Cline: The Constitution provides that each state shall appoint its electors for president, “in such a Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct.” In the months preceding the 2020 election, those rules and procedures established by the state Legislatures were deliberately changed by a number of individuals, including governors, secretaries of state, elections officials, judges, and private parties. These changes were a direct violation of Article II, Section 1, Clause 2 of the Constitution. For this reason, I objected to the electors from those states and I stand by my objection. Continue reading

For Want of a Plaintiff

by Jim McCarthy

On June 6, 2022, one hundred or more Virginians breathed a sigh of relief that they would not be required to campaign for the House of Delegates in November 2022. A panel of federal judges dismissed a lawsuit challenging the 2021 delegate elections because the voting districts were malapportioned, i.e., the results of the 2010 census were still in play defining the populations of the 100 seats.

Since the 14th century, we have been instructed on the crucial nature of the kingdom that was lost due to the want of a nail. A more contemporary moral is related to the significance of “one person, one vote.” The panel found that the plaintiff failed to demonstrate standing to sue because he had not suffered an injury in fact within the district where he voted as required by the Constitution for a case or controversy.

Reviewing the commonwealth’s population data from the 2010 and 2020 censuses, the panel’s analysis concluded that the plaintiff’s vote in the 2021 election was cast in a district that, in fact, had fewer residents than the “ideal district.” Census figures from 2010 indicated the “ideal district” was 80,000. When the new maps were drawn by the Virginia Supreme Court subsequent to the election, the ideal district was pegged at 86,314. The plaintiff’s district prior to the redistricting was numbered at 79,611 and at 85,344 post redistricting. The chart below outlines the analysis:


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Faithless Electors, Faithless Congresspersons

by Jim McCarthy

“With what shall I fix it, dear Liza, dear Liza, with what shall I fix it, dear Liza, with what?” May 30th is National Hole in the Bucket Day offering the states and Congress the opportunity to fix the hole in the bucket of Presidential electoral processes and procedures.

At present, members of Congress are unrestrained from voting to accept or reject the certified state electoral votes and slates of electors for the Electoral College. This hole in the bucket has largely been deflected by emphasis upon election integrity, a meme for voter fraud by the voters themselves (or, occasionally groups).

The names of presidential electors may or may not appear on the ballot in most states; voters by and large believe they are casting a vote directly for the president and vice president. The U.S. Supreme Court (Chiafalo v Washington, 2020) unanimously ruled that states have the constitutional authority to force electors to vote in accordance with their state’s popular vote. The opinion, while recognizing state power in this regard, does not require states to prevent faithless electors. At the time of the decision, 33 states, including Virginia, had adopted legislation binding electors. Continue reading

A Rebuttal Regarding Changes in Election Laws and Changes in Turnout

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Putting aside the comparison with Georgia, I want to take issue with James Sherlock’s comparison of turnout in earlier Virginia gubernatorial elections with the turnout after significant recent changes in the Commonwealth’s elections laws. First of all, comparing the 66.5% turnout in the 1989 election, in which Doug Wilder became the first Black person in the nation to be elected governor, to any other election is misleading. That was an historic event; of course there would be massive turnout.

More importantly, however, in this type of analysis, one needs to look at the relative levels of registration. Research has shown that increases in registration, especially some variant of automatic registration such as Motor Voter, do not translate into a comparable rise in turnout. In fact, they may result in a decrease in the turnout rate. If registration is relatively low, as it has been historically in Virginia, it is likely those registered are the most committed and the most likely to vote. (See here and here for more discussion of these findings.)

Comparisons of registered voters, population size, and relevant percentages provide strong evidence that recent changes in election laws helped expand the number of people participating in the 2021 gubernatorial election. Continue reading

Progressive Dogma Untethered to Results – Voter Laws Edition

by James C. Sherlock

The armies of the progressive left are what the great political scientist George Edwards called “Prisoners of Their Premises.” Many persons and institutions are captives, to a greater or lesser degree.

Lesser is better in this case. Mistakes flow from the best of intentions. You can learn from them or repeat them.

The United States military late in the Vietnam war mandated and then made a science out of analyzing its mistakes in order to learn from them.

At the unit level, soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines debrief after every training and combat mission. At higher levels the reviews are periodic, but also professionally honest. Combat training schools capture, but do not enshrine those lessons. Because there is always a next time, newer equipment, newer force compositions, newer enemies and newer lessons.

It is the only way to improve systematically.

Many progressives, in solitary confinement with their dogma, are often wrong but always certain. When their policy prescriptions fail to provide the predicted results, which is most of the time, outcomes are ignored or blamed on outside factors beyond their control. Core beliefs, unchallenged, are undisturbed.

Consider for illustration recent voting law changes. Continue reading

Virginia Absentee Ballots: Absent from the State?

by Lindsey Zea

For election accountability purposes, chain of custody for ballots should be observable and publicly verifiable. So, why are two of the largest counties in Virginia, as well as other localities, planning to expand the chain of custody to include a third-party absentee-ballot processing company from Washington state that was caught red-handed ignoring the security measures built into the law?

Before 2021, absentee ballots were mailed from local registrars’ offices and processed and supervised by the registrar’s staff. In 2021, a bill (SB 1239) was passed that permits localities to hire a third-party company to print, assemble, and mail absentee ballots. Once hired, this vendor receives the name, address, precinct, district and voter ID information for individual voters. In Loudoun County, for example, the list of permanent absentee ballots that would be handed over to the private vendor would number around 15,000.

Last year, Fairfax County, the most populous county in Virginia, outsourced the printing and mailing of absentee ballots to a company called K&H located in Washington state. K&H failed to follow Virginia law. The company did not sign a legally required oath before beginning work. A public information request found that the vendor failed to comply with Virginia law and did not sign the oaths until months after the election was over. Continue reading

Intregripedia

by Jim McCarthy

Surely, at some point, an accomplished polymath will create Integripedia to provide info-hungry internet users with a comprehensive source on political integrity. Specifically, the compendium should cover the promises and pledges of political leaders as well their foibles and accomplishments and perhaps most memorable statements. For the present, however, we must rely upon Safari, Google, Bing and others to identify such topical information. Worse, we may be relying upon cable news pundits who are no longer characterizing their spiels as journalism.

At the end of April, Virginia’s youngish governor conducted a press conference to discuss his first 100 days in office and parse his administration’s accomplishments. Only a few outlets, rather unenthusiastically, reported upon the signature event. For the most part, the Governor offered that great progress has been made.

A reading of the media coverage confirms that the Governor made no mention of efforts to enhance the Commonwealth’s election integrity, as he promised during his campaign. No mention was made of his legislative amendment to restore integrity to the Loudoun County School Board which, during the campaign, he declared to be guilty of “gross negligence” and “violating the Virginia Constitution.”

Lay folk would likely agree that electoral procedures and processes should be annually administered to ensure the validity and credibility of each and every vote for each and every election. To this end, the proportions or numbers of electoral malfeasance discovered or prosecuted are vital mile posts in identifying soft spots and creating remedial measures. Continue reading