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:

“If Ballot Scout is not working for voters they may visit our citizen portal,… click check registration status, to see if their ballot has been issued and if it has been accepted by the registrar upon return,” added the spokesperson.

Or how about this radical thought: The state gets the piece of junk program off its website and instead features only the older tracking program, which actually works. Get our money back, too, please.

The Special Session That Will Never End

Both the House of Delegates and Virginia Senate will be back in session tomorrow, as the special session now approaches the normal length of time for a regular full session. All of 37 bills have been passed  many of them duplicates or overlapping. Only one has been signed by Governor Ralph Northam.

Another 17 bills have passed both chambers but with differences, so they are in  conference committees (see the list on this Senate Calendar for tomorrow). Most of the successful bills deal with the policing, sentencing and incarceration issues being pushed in the name of racial equity.

Updating issues previously discussed:

  • Legislation to create a COVID-19 workers compensation claim has failed.
  • Legislation for a state employee sick leave mandate has also failed.
  • Legislation protecting tenants behind on their rent in the recession has passed.
  • Legislation to allow a $500 fine for violating a Governor’s Executive Order has passed, but with a 2023 sunset. Before this, only a felony conviction could be imposed, and authorities were reluctant to do that for minor violations such not wearing a face mask.

Both chambers have passed amendments to the current 2020-2022 state budget, but they do not agree. The official conference committee to resolve those differences is not meeting, but reportedly an unofficial conference is underway. As reported previously, it a three-way struggle between the House, Senate and Governor now.

One key issue in the budget is a language amendment which extends the moratorium on utility disconnections, previously reported. The House is being unusually slow in posting the actual roll calls on many things – it will be a huge transparency issue in a regular session – but eventually gets around to it. Here is the House vote on that issue, and nine GOP delegates joined with most Democrats to pass it. All but a couple of them actually represent customers of Appalachian Power, not Dominion Energy Virginia.

What May Be Distracting the House Leadership

Maybe they don’t have time to keep up with posting roll calls because of the silly lawsuit Speaker of the House Eileen Filler-Corn walked herself into and promptly lost. Herewith the link to the report from the Virginia citizen, Dave Webster, who got her chastised and fined by a Virginia judge. His attorney, Tim Anderson, was on John Reid’s show on WRVA this morning.

The state political media is ignoring this embarrassment, perhaps fearing Madam Speaker (and I know what it means to be on a Speaker’s bad side). It is shameful how this story has been squelched.

Webster discussed a possible next step:

“I believe Speaker Filler-Corn violated the Virginia Public Procurement Act which provides that: “Any person convicted of a willful violation of any provision of this article shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. Upon conviction, any public employee, in addition to any other fine or penalty provided by law, shall forfeit his [or her] employment.” It is true that the DGS has an existing open source contract with B.R. Howard but I don’t believe this entitles Speaker Filler-Corn to ram through any expenditures of Virginia taxpayer dollars she wishes to impose. The only problem with me asking a Richmond magistrate to swear out an arrest warrant against Speaker Filler-Corn is that I will probably also have to ask for the arrest of House Clerk Suzette Denslow. Suzette was just following orders, so I hesitate to do that.”

Most of the artifacts removed from the Old House Chamber were busts of individuals with Confederate histories, but there was one full size statue, depicting General Robert E. Lee, supposedly where he stood on accepting promotion to lead the Army of Northern Virginia. The removal party itself was recorded with pride, but where the pieces are now remains a mystery. Webster could not get Filler-Corn to divulge that.