JLARC Exposes Partisan Bias of Election Officials but Ignores Most Compelling Evidence

Well, well, well, the Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF) has been vindicated. In 2016 and 2018, the conservative public interest group documented more than 1,000 instances in which non-citizens were registered to vote in Virginia elections and that 200 in which they had actually voted — based on numbers from localities accounting for only 20% of Virginia’s population. (See our summary of the PILF report here.)

PILF charged that the McAuliffe administration’s Department of Elections had actively tried to block the research project by telling local registrars not to cooperate. As the PILF report noted:

Virginia state election officials are obstructing access to public records that reveal the extent to which non-citizens are participating in our elections. These obstructionist tactics have led to PILF … obtaining data from only a handful of Virginia counties so far. But the information from a few counties demonstrates a massive problem.

The mainstream media totally ignored the story, and many Bacon’s Rebellion readers pooh-poohed PILF’s findings. But yesterday the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission presented its report on Virginia’s election oversight system. The Richmond Times-Dispatch summarized the most disturbing findings:

Jamie Bitz, a chief legislative analyst for JLARC, said interviews with local voter registrars and state elections staffers showed there was “a perception of political bias that was reflected in decisions about certain policies and certain agency operations.”

In an interview after the meeting, Bitz said JLARC was told that former agency leaders directed staff to help Democratic groups avoid campaign finance laws and rules that require political groups to put their names on ads.

“We heard of one example where the previous deputy commissioner at the agency very openly stated to a number of people, including to one high-level elections official in Virginia, that one of her key responsibilities was to help Hillary Clinton be elected president,” Bitz said.

The JLARC report did not address the specific charges raised by PILF, but it does confirm that the Department of Elections under the McAuliffe administration had a blatant partisan bent. (The study also said that Elections under Governor Ralph Northam has improved.)

While the JLARC study provides a useful overview of the strengths and weaknesses of the system, it is disappointing that it shows cognizance of the extensive, thoroughly documented work performed by PILF, or even to address the same issues. For example, JLARC lists several ways in which Virginia’s system of elections is vulnerable to fraud:

  • An individual is not eligible to vote—because of court action—but casts a vote.
  • An individual is not eligible to vote—not a resident of Virginia—but casts a vote.
  • An individual fraudulently uses the identity of a person who is no longer a resident of Virginia to cast a vote.
  • An individual fraudulently uses the identity of a deceased person to cast a vote.
  • An individual who is not a U.S. citizen fraudulently affirms their citizenship and subsequently casts a vote.

Remarkably, the report fails to address the charges raised by PILF, which focused on a sixth type of fraud — in which individuals affirm their non-citizenship at the Department of Motor Vehicles and vote anyway. 

“It is nearly impossible to quantify the likelihood or occurrence of voter fraud in Virginia,” the JLARC report goes on to say. “It is likely that some instances of voter fraud occur but are not discovered or do not result in fraud convictions. There are anecdotes of voter fraud in Virginia, but JLARC staff were not presented with any verifiable evidence of large-scale voter fraud of this type.”

Contrary to JLARC’s contention that the incidence is “impossible to quantify,” PILF did quantify an exact number for cooperating localities — and JLARC easily could have followed PILF’s methodology to do the same for the entire state.

Bacon’s bottom line: The JLARC report is simultaneously disturbing, based on evidence it uncovered, and disappointing, based on the evidence it ignored. The problem that PILF identified — registration of non-citizens and, to a lesser extent, voting by non-citizens — continues to go unaddressed. One can argue that the phenomenon is not pervasive enough to sway any but the tightest of elections, but that makes the problem no less real.

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20 responses to “JLARC Exposes Partisan Bias of Election Officials but Ignores Most Compelling Evidence

  1. re: ” In an interview after the meeting, Bitz said JLARC was told that former agency leaders directed staff to help Democratic groups avoid campaign finance laws and rules that require political groups to put their names on ads.
    “We heard of one example where the previous deputy commissioner at the agency very openly stated to a number of people, including to one high-level elections official in Virginia, that one of her key responsibilities was to help Hillary Clinton be elected president,” Bitz said.”

    I was trying to find in the JLARC report – the things Bitz said in the interview.

    Is Bitz reporting on what JLARC found – and reported or something he “heard”?

    It sounds like he is saying something different from what the report actually concluded.

    no?

  2. Well, Jim, “the tightest of elections” is what determined things a year ago, and here we go again in November, so this really matters. Thanks for drawing the connection to the earlier reports, which of course were dismissed because only Republicans misbehave and Democrats never do (just like with gerrymandering).

    Here’s the link to the JLARC report. I think his remark added detail beyond the report, but the reports are usually written to be fairly dry and dispassionate.

    http://jlarc.virginia.gov/2018-elections.asp

  3. Did anyone expect good coverage from the Ministry of Enlightenment and Propaganda?

  4. Do we know that Bitz is an objective person? If everyone who were involved in producing the report – gave their own “extended” view .. who among those folks would we trust to be objective or not and at the end of the day -do we trust the report itself?

    Seems like Bitz has undermined the report and at the same time introduced his own view of which we know little about his own politics…

    I’m not defending the Dems nor attacking the GOP here… but I’m asking if the JLARC report is worth anything at all if the folks who participated in it and signed their name -provide additional information that is what they say they “heard”? That report needs to be fact-based with references or when you add the “extended” remarks – the whole thing is tainted…

    Doesn’t Bitz know that when he undermines the report he was a major player in?

    At this point – I’m wondering if JLARC deserves it’s reputation for objectivity… it sure looks like there are political views in play.

    • Wow, Larry, I actually have to say I’m impressed. That’s quite the artful act of rhetorical deflection! Questioning the objectivity of the JLARC report based upon your speculations about Bitz’ own objectivity. It takes a certain kind of genius to do that.

  5. In pure terms of validating authorized voters – for any election – out and out fraud on a wide scale has never been proven.

    What HAS been proven is that people who changed where they lived – are not tracked very well – no matter the jurisdiction or political leanings of that district.

    People move – and they seldom if ever notify the registrar and it’s a known weakness that could be fairly easily addressed with a state-level registration system that checks every new registration – like a credit card company would – their prior addresses – and record of voting.

    I’ve seen this first hand when checking in voters on the voting precincts – and if not mistake – Steve and others also have volunteered for staffing the polls and no doubt have also seen it.

    In terms of checking in someone – you get their ID, you ask them their home address and you verify that in the database. If they are in that database – it means their home address is in that precinct district – as opposed to not being a registered voter…at all.

    Now, there, no doubt, ARE people that are in that database that have moved but if they have not registered at their new precinct – they’ll not be able to vote because they will not have a valid address in that precinct when they check in to vote.

    So we’re talking about people who are in the registration database – wrong but who do not vote and if they tried to vote, would be stopped when the poll worker tried to validate their address.

    Now go to PILF and see what they are saying – and you’ll see that what they are claiming is totally bogus… and that’s why they get no respect – and especially so from the elections folks … they’re pushing an agenda that is simple not true… and people believe them – who have not taken the time to look to see how registration and voting actually works. People who actually work in the polls on election day – DO KNOW… and it’s damned near impossible to vote if your address is wrong. Most of the time when that happens and they insist – they get a provisional ballot that is then manually verified the day after – and that’s what could be improved by state level registration – where their actual existing address is determined by some simple checks similar to how Banks and Credit Card companies verify addresses.

    this is all partisan blather.. for those that want to engage in it.

  6. My one throw at checking in people hardly qualifies me as an expert on what might or might not be possible for someone determined to register who is not eligible, which I think its what that group was alleging happened. Once they are on the rolls, I agree – hard to vote if there is a question about the address or if they announce a new address that is not on their ID. But sitting at the table I have no idea about their basic eligibility – citizenship, etc. And when there is a problem, the first call is to somebody higher up the chain, and it that person is biased…..

    Word on the street, Larry, is that things had gone off the rails at the state staff level. But the incumbent in the job did not survive the transition, so the complaints had an effect. The recent stories out of Hopewell, with the local board secretary printing the names of favored candidates in all-caps, is a pretty good example of what can happen if people in these jobs do not start with the premise that the process has to be scrupulously fair.

    To just dismiss a comment from a JLARC staff person because it embarrasses your team, that is partisan blather, Larry. JLARC has a great deal of credibility.

    • @Steve – people who participate on a team and sign their name to the teams findings then go outside the team and make comments to the press that do not comport with the findings – is a FAIL and I don’t care what their politics are.

      That guy should NEVER work for JLARC – period.

  7. Amen, Steve.

    • When I was doing politics actively I was in an out of that office all the time (back in the old Ninth St. Office Bldg), working with getting names on the ballot, filing reports (reading the other side’s reports!) – and for all that time felt comfortable that the staff was dealing with all parties in a fair and equitable manner. This was the dark ages, pre-Internet. You had to go in to get stuff, hand in stuff. If that attitude and reputation has slipped, it needs to be restored ASAP. And I will agree that part of that has to be both parties avoiding attacks on the integrity of that office when there is no real cause.

  8. Steve KNOWS that it is hard to fraudulently vote in person but he says he does not know how registration works…. Registration is even HARDER to scam as they not only verify your address – they verify other indicators of actual residence.

    If you go back and read the claims from that bogus outfit called PILF and then actually compare that to existing practices – you’ll realize that they basically are playing on people’s ignorance of how the system actually does work to detect wrong voting AND on top of that – imply that a conspiracy of people seeking to affect the results of an election could happen – which is even more bogus but plays to partisans who basically want to impugn our systems.

    Notice – for instance, they do not lay out specific reforms they say are needed and find sponsors to push for them. Nope.. that’s not really what they are about.

  9. It is always amusing to read Bacon’s Rebellion and spot what is left out in one of Jim’s arguments. He cites the JLARC report and one from a right wing think tank and lays all supposed electoral fraud on Democrats.
    What’s left out here is an instance of REAL electoral fraud — using forged signatures to get Shaun Brown on the Second Congressional District on the ballot as anindependent so that she will split the vote and let incumbent Republican Scott Taylor win. This is the real deal, Jim. A judge agreed there was fraud and ordered Brown off the ballot. This is not the whining of some think tank.

  10. My knowledge with respect to how the precincts are operated is that there are two people appointed and one is a Dem and one is a GOP. Perhaps Steve can verify this.

    If that is true – and you’d interview one or the other on a political issue – you may well get a partisan answer. I assume that the precinct Chief is responsible for following procedure no matter their politics. If they do not , I assume it can be reported and they can be removed but as long as they follow procedures, can they also express a partisan view?

    Is this the way the law is currently written? Is it disclosed in JLARC reports Is this how we should be staffing and operating the precincts?

    Perhaps it would be useful to find out more and discuss this further.

    I have zero respect for PILF – they are an outfit with an agenda – that implies that it is possible for elections to be fraudulently manipulated to favor one candidate or party over another but what they cite as the potentials is damn near impossible to replicate in any reasonable conspiracy scenario… they are irregularities with process and procedure but they cannot be exploited in the ways that PILF claims. We should fix the shortcomings as a matter of due diligence but it does no one any good to purposely incite conspiratorial motives nor actions …

    What PILF really is doing is purposely injecting partisan politics even more into our elections.

    • I have no idea the political leanings of the other poll workers (I think some have worked campaigns, they did mention.) No requirement for balance. Did it just the one time so that may become more evident as we spend more time together. The impression I got was they all want to see The Process work fairly and the results counted, no matter what that is, and I’m up for that.

      State law also allows party observers to be present in the polls and they are there to watch from that POV.

  11. Steve – you ought to look into it further guy:

    ” Electoral Board Job DescriptionSummary: The Electoral Board of each County and City in Virginia is made up of threemembers who serve three-year staggered terms. Two members are members of the political party of the most recently elected governor. The chair and secretary must represent different political parties unless the position is declined. Although the bipartisan board is appointed by the Circuit Court based upon local party recommendations, each member must carry out official duties in a nonpartisan manner. The authority for the administration of all aspects of elections for the locality remains with the Electoral Board, including oversight of the General Registrar/Director of Elections,and is responsible to the State Board of Elections for that administration.”

    https://www.elections.virginia.gov/Files/Media/GREBWorkgroup/Electoral-Board-JobDescription-31715.pdf

    then from the Election FAQ:

    ” Other information about Officers of Election:

    As much as possible, political party representation should be equal at each polling place.
    One officer is designated the Chief Officer and another the Assistant Chief for each polling place.”

    at the precinct I worked at – the Chief was one political party and the Deputy – the other…

    check it out… you might be surprised… especially if the Electoral Board itself is 3 people and 2 are the political party of the Gov…

  12. So, here’s a few points.

    1. Has ANYONE , including JLARC (or PILF for that matter) actually explained how the Elections function is purposely operated and staffed by known partisan folks from the Dems and GOP?

    2. If your precincts are actually staffed by self-identified and purposely-selected Dems and GOP – does JLARC and JLARC staff like Bitz – make that known when they discuss hearing individual election staff make partisan comments? In other words – if you went to any precinct in Va – you’d find both GOP and DEMs staffing and if you talked to one or the other about politics – you’d actually hear partisan views – BECAUSE that’s the way the election staffing is purposely done.

    3. – It’s NOT the case as implied by some including Bitz that someone with partisan views somehow managed to become an election official unbeknownst to those that selected that person … and had they known of the partisan views – not selected them.

    4. – The OPPOSITE is true – in the Virginia Election process – partisan people are explicitly chosen as staff … on purpose… with the intent being to have both parties equally represented and presiding over the election process AND watching each other to ensure that the process itself is NOT partisan.

    So the bigger point here is that the selection of partisan representatives to staff the elections is on purpose… it’s how the process is actually designed.

    How many ordinary people KNOW THIS?

    Did JLARC or PILF or Bitz acknowledge this and make clear to their respective audiences that this is actually done this way on purpose and not the result of someone with partisan views sneaking in and corrupting the election process?

    My view is that by not explicitly acknowledging the purposeful partisan staffing and operation of elections that it is easy for individuals claiming that partisan comments were made by staff – that the election process is compromised and corrupt.

    As said before – in Virginia , the election process is purposely staffed with partisan people – and supposedly done by having balance and equal representation….

    It would have been better for JLARC to make that aspect crystal clear at the top in the background info –

    It would have also been nice for them to opine as to whether or not that aspect of elections is “ok” or should be reformed or tweaked…etc

    If they actually did speak to that issue – then statements made by others including Bitz that implied there were untoward partisan influences… would have been recognized as misleading.. because the staffing is actually done that way on purpose.

    ANYONE – JLARC, PILF, Bitz – has a responsibility to make sure that ordinary people actually DO understand the facts..and not be left uninformed so that they can be misled by others with their own agendas.

    • Larry, you’ve jumped the shark. None of your commentary has any bearing whatsoever upon PILF’s allegations, which focused on DMV voter registrations.

      • Actually then the BLOG post did because Bitz allegations were not with respect registration or what PILF was claiming.

        The bigger point which is not addressed in any of this is the purposeful policies to specifically identify poll workers with regard to their party affiliation… and to appoint and staff on that basis.

        In that context – should anyone be surprised that various staff would hold particular political views rather than having none?

        The problem with PILF and the reason JLARC pretty much ignored them is that PILF is basically claiming that because when people move – there names don’t clear and get updated – that that constitutes a way that groups of people can collaborate to game the elections. That’s just totally bogus and deserves to be ignored.

        But anyone who thinks the election process in Virginia is “non-partisan” is not in receipt of the facts – and those facts are a very legitimate subject of a blog post because most people don’t realize how elections are actually run in Virginia.

        The funny thing is that none of this is covered in the “training” that folks like myself and Steve received… so not even some of the precinct workers are fully aware of it. I found out in a conversation with the precinct Chief.. then went looking online for it.. and not much .. you have to read careful.

        Is this the way it should be done? Should anyone that is a registered Dem or GOP not be allowed to staff a precinct? Should it only be open to independents? What should the policy actually be and shouldn’t that policy be fully above board and visible to any Virginian so they do understand how our elections actually work?

        These are important questions, no?

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