State lawmakers repeatedly claimed in recent years that preserving the integrity of Virginia’s elections justified – demanded, even – mandating that voters show photo identification in order to cast a ballot. This year, Republicans are pushing forward a proposal that requires voters seeking mail-in absentee ballots to provide photo ID. None of these requirements, of course, is based on evidence of widespread ballot fraud.…But the biggest risk to the integrity of Virginia’s elections exists in the unreliability of aging electronic voting machines used at four out of five polling stations across the commonwealth. And Republicans, who control both chambers of Virginia’s legislature, have taken a curiously hands-off approach to solving that problem. Gov. Terry McAuliffe proposed designating $1.6 million to help reimburse localities that recently replaced their equipment, and another $28 million in bonds to help more localities purchase new electronic voting machines. Those funds could have played a vital role in efforts to ensure that every vote is counted, yet Republicans in the Senate and House of Delegates rejected the request while assembling their respective budget plans.
… These machines have a lifespan of about 7 to 10 years, but most of Virginia’s registrars possess equipment that is at least 10 years old. This increases the risk of the machines losing calibration, as happened in Virginia Beach, experiencing the failure of backup memory systems and having batteries that fail to hold a charge. Each of those represents a significant risk to the integrity of the vote in Virginia.
Lawmakers have contended that replacement of these machines is a responsibility for each locality. It’s a convenient way to pass the buck, particularly when those lawmakers have repeatedly pulled about $30 million annually from localities back to Richmond to help balance the state’s budget. The Senate has proposed ending this practice, and delegates should follow.
If legislators aren’t going to provide the equipment-replacement funds requested by the governor, they should at least quit taking local revenue. Cities and counties could use it to fix a very real problem – one that Republican lawmakers, apparently, have little interest in actually addressing.