Category Archives: Electoral process

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

The Systemic Racism of Monument Avenue

By Peter Galuszka

Richmond’s grand Monument Avenue, a double lane, tree lined thoroughfare, has been the epicenter of the Black Lives Matter campaign that has focused on the statues of several Confederate figures one the road, including Robert E. Lee, J.E.B. Stuart, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson and Jefferson Davis.

All are up for removal, but the same foot-dragging that has for years protected the statues that some consider racist is at work today. Protestors have torn down Davis and have defaced the rest. On Sunday night, they nearly ripped down the Stuart statue as two city council members urged that it be removed on an emergency basis.

Lee’s statue has been ordered down by Gov. Ralph Northam, but the effort has been tied up in lawsuits by several property owners. One claims either that the original deed that gave the state the site for Lee included language that it could not be removed. Other plaintiffs, most anonymous,  claim that removing the statues would hurt their property values and their special tax status.

If anything smacks of white privilege and entitlement, this is it. But for more perspective, this article in The Atlantic neatly sums up the history behind the statues and the Avenue, noting that the issue has everything to do with rewriting Richmond’s history and making a marketing play to sell expensive and exclusive real estate decades after the Confederacy was suppressed. Continue reading

Libertarians Need Not Apply

By Peter Galuszka

The Virginia Republican Party had a big shock Saturday.

Far-right candidate Bob Good snatched the party’s nomination in the fifth congressional district from incumbent Denver Riggleman, who was backed by President Donald Trump and Jerry Falwell Jr., the head of Liberty University.

The remarkable twist could presage an arch-conservative backlash against Trump’s populism in the run up to elections this November.

University of Virginia political analyst Larry Sabato tweeted early Sunday morning that “the Virginia GOP has gone so far to the right that a congressman backed by (Trump and Falwell) isn’t conservative enough to renominate.”

The 5th District includes the cities of Lynchburg and Charlottesville and covers broad swaths of highly socially conservative rural areas. Riggleman’s problem was that he had Libertarian tendencies and had officiated at a gay wedding. Continue reading

Absentee Voting by Mail Has Many Safeguards

by Rosanna Bencoach

In a recent piece in Bacon’s Rebellion, “COVID-19 No Justification for Mail-In Voting,” Brian Glass questioned the security of mail-in voting by citing controversies in other states during previous elections.

The underlying issues and outcomes varied but did not cast doubt on the entire system. As Dick Hall-Sizemore commented:

Voting by mail is not inherently subject to greater levels of fraud. The states of Oregon and Washington have had voting by mail for years. In the 2016 election, there were 54 causes of voter fraud in Oregon. Washington experienced 142 cases in the 2018 election. There have to be safeguards built in to voting by mail or absentee voting programs. For example, the idea of one person collecting the votes of many others in order to take them to the polling place (“ballot harvesting”) easily lends itself to fraud and should not be allowed.

In Virginia, absentee voting is conducted by mail and in the Voter Registrar’s office, and must begin by the 45th day before each general election or primary. Absentee voting requires an application from the voter, stating a legally acceptable reason to vote absentee (travel, illness, etc.) Continue reading

COVID-19 No Justification for Mail-In Voting

by Brian Glass

With the COVID-19 epidemic, adherents of mail-in voting in Virginia and around the country believe they have found the “hook” to pass their favored legislation. That idea needs to be revisited before the primary elections in June and the presidential election in November. Regardless of the epidemic, voting by mail is still a bad idea.

In the 2017 Dallas, Tex., City Council election, there were approximately 700 fraudulent mail-in ballots signed by the same person. The number of fraudulent ballots were larger than the difference in the vote tally in one of he races.

In the 2018 North Carolina gubernatorial election, 61% of mail-in ballots favored the Republican candidate even though registered Republicans accounted for only 19% of those who requested mail-in ballots. The Republican won by a 905-vote margin. The results were thrown out and a new election resulted in the election of a Democratic governor.

In 2016, 83 registered voters in San Pedro, Calif., received ballots at the same address, an apartment complex. Continue reading