The Republican chairman of the House of Delegates elections committee has introduced a bill to tighten rules governing voter registration drives after multiple cases of potential fraud leading up to the presidential election. Del. Mark L. Cole, R-Spotsylvania, pre-filed a bill that would add stricter paperwork and reporting requirements for non-governmental groups that canvass neighborhoods and events to register Virginians to vote. Cole’s legislation, which will be considered when the legislature reconvenes in January, would require every individual employee or volunteer working with outside groups to register with the state and submit logs of their activity. The state would assign each worker a unique identifying number and keep a record of each person’s name and contact information. The bill would prevent voter registration groups from paying employees on a per-application basis, which some have speculated could create a financial incentive for phony applications. Del. Hyland F. “Buddy” Fowler Jr., R-Hanover, pre-filed the same bill.
The legislative proposals come as lawmakers continue to debate how to strike a balance between election integrity and an easy process for democratic participation. The policy battle has played out over the state’s voter ID law and Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s push to soften the state’s policy of felon disenfranchisement.
Several states have laws in place for certifying third-party volunteers and workers before allowing them to register others to vote, a process typically handled by local registrars’ offices.
Under existing Virginia law, groups are required to register only if collecting 25 or more voter registration applications, a provision the General Assembly passed in 2013. There is no registration requirement for individuals, but all representatives of a group must undergo training and sign a form swearing to follow the law.