In late December, Gov. Terry McAuliffe said the state should shell out $28 million to buy new voting machines for every locality in the commonwealth. The Republican-controlled General Assembly said no. That money sure would come in handy now, wouldn’t it? Last week, the State Board of Elections decreed that voting machines used by more than two dozen localities — including Richmond, Henrico and Fairfax — could no longer be used. The WinVote machines, some of which don’t work well because of age, are vulnerable to hacking. Quite vulnerable, apparently. The decision leaves localities scrambling to scrape up nearly $7 million so they can replace hundreds of machines before the June 9 primaries. Primaries tend to be low-turnout affairs, but you never know who might show up, so localities will have to open — and, for those affected, re-equip — all the precinct polling places in contested districts.
The election board’s review was prompted by reports of voting irregularities last November. Virginia localities use 27 different voting systems, and they can’t all be the best. There’s a good case for choosing one superior system and adopting it statewide. After all, thanks to the Dillon Rule, the General Assembly makes most other major decisions for localities anyway.
Virginia Republicans have spent the past few years pushing voter-ID measures designed to crack down on a form of election fraud — one person pretending to be another — that is about as easy to find as Bigfoot riding a unicorn. Yet when presented with the very real problems last November, along with a reasonable solution to address them, they declined. As a result, local governments find themselves not only with a large and unexpected expense, but also with a procurement decision they will have to make on the fly, which is not the ideal way to make such decisions.