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Election Integrity

The integrity of our elections is necessary to protect our rights; if significant errors or weaknesses in the processes are allowed to continue, or if illegal votes are allowed to cancel out legitimate votes, confidence in our leaders being in selected and leading according to "the consent of the governed" is undermined. 

On this page, I will provide links to my efforts on this issue, as well as reports and other information regarding election law and results in the Commonwealth. Voter information for upcoming elections is on a separate page here.

After issues of non-citizens potentially on voting rolls were discovered in 2017, as summarized in this Washington Times article, I introduced HB 1167 in 2018 to facilitate more efficient clean-up of the voter lists. After passing the House and Senate, the bill was vetoed by then-Governor Terry McAuliffe. This was one of numerous Republican-introduced election reform bills vetoed by Governors McAuliffe and Northam since I've been in office.

 

2020 Election Issues:

After Democrats took over the General Assembly in the 2019 election, they immediately began changing numerous Virginia voting laws in the 2020 regular session, effectively making it much more difficult for local voter registrars to ensure efficient and secure elections. A list of these 2020 changes, compiled by the Department of Elections, is here.

Next, the Virginia Department of Elections issued guidance to local election boards on August 4, 2020, particularly allowing ballots received within the Election Day plus-3 window even if they do not have a postmark, or the postmark is missing or illegible. This is in violation of Virginia statute (24.2-709) requirement that “any absentee ballot returned to the general registrar after the closing of the polls on election day but before noon on the third day after the election and postmarked on or before the date of the election shall be counted…” (emphasis added). The Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF), on behalf of Thomas Reed, a Frederick County electoral board member, sued to block this practice, and on October 28, 2020, the Court ruled for Reed in a preliminary injunction hearing that Virginia could not accept and count late absentee ballots missing postmarks and USPS barcodes could not indicate date of mailing. A consent decree, entered by the Court on January 13, 2021, sets forth that late ballots missing postmarks be rejected. If a late-arriving ballot contains an illegible postmark but USPS barcodes do not indicate a late mailing, it can be accepted. More information on this case is available here.

During the Special Session called by Governor Northam in the fall of 2020, a bill making massive changes only applying to the 2020 November General Election, was passed on very narrow party-line margins, and signed by the Governor. SB 5120 appropriated $2,000,000 to the Department of Elections to be used to provide prepaid postage for the return of absentee ballots and also makes other procedural changes for absentee voting for the November 3, 2020, election, including directing the State Board of Elections to promulgate guidelines for the establishment and operation of drop-off locations for completed ballots. The Governor signed the bill on Sept. 4, less than two months prior to the election, and purported to go into effect immediately, in violation of the Virginia Constitution.

 

Another incredibly important fact is that the Department of Elections did not perform the voter list maintenance required by Virginia law prior to the 2020 General Election. I did not learn this until after the election, and pursued this issue with the Commissioner of Elections; one email from me challenging their failure to meet this requirement is below, and his March 12 response is here:  

On Fri, Feb 5, 2021 at 5:59 PM Dave A LaRock <DelDLaRock@house.virginia.gov> wrote:

Commissioner Piper,

§ 24.2-428.A requires that, "The Department of Elections shall establish a voter list maintenance program using the change of address information supplied by the United States Postal Service through its licensees or by other reliable sources to identify voters whose addresses may have changed. Any such program shall be regular and periodic and shall be conducted at least annually. The program shall be completed not later than ninety days prior to the date of a federal primary or federal general election." [emphasis mine]

Your department's "Department of Elections Annual List Maintenance Report – September 1, 2019 – August 31, 2020" states on page 6 that, "The confirmation mailings described above, including NCOA, in-state movers, and out-of-state cancellations, will be conducted following the November 2020 General Election. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 election calendar was shifted considerably. Thus, the window in which the Department traditionally conducts the NCOA confirmation process was no longer available. Instead of overburdening local offices, who were striving to conduct unprecedented elections under extraordinarily trying pandemic conditions, the Department opted to move the NCOA confirmation mailing process to December, which ensures compliance with existing statutes as described in Va. Codes § 24.2-306 & § 24.2-428." [emphasis mine]

The final sentence quoted in the paragraph from your report above does not appear to be accurate, as the final sentence in § 24.2-428.A clearly states that the "program shall be completed not later than ninety days prior to the date of a federal primary or federal general election." Please explain the apparent conflict between what your report states and the clear requirement in § 24.2-428.A. 

Please also update me on the current status of this program: if/when it was initiated/completed by your department, if/when the data was communicated to local registrars, etc.. If it has been completed, please provide me with the data on how many voters were found to have moved, and how many of those voted in the 2020 General Election, preferably broken down by locality and/or Congressional district. 

Sincerely,

Dave

Delegate Dave LaRock

 

Studies and research:

2018 JLARC study "Operations and Performance of Virginia’s Department of Elections"

https://virginiaproject.com/election-audit

https://virginiaelectiontrust.com/


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