Virginia

Articles about voting issues in Virginia.

Virginia: Months from 2020 election, Virginia updates cybersecurity, voting equipment rules | Max Smith/WTOP

Virginia elections officials are taking new cybersecurity steps as part of new voting-equipment policies ahead of the 2020 presidential election. More significant security measures are planned starting in 2021. Under new plans for voting systems and electronic poll books that are set to be adopted by the State Board of Elections next week, the companies that make voting machines and the check-in systems used by local elections officials in the state will update all existing software to at least meet 2015 standards. “In order to ensure equipment security during the 2020 November Presidential election, the Department has worked with the election vendor community to develop an implementation plan to upgrade localities to standardized versions of equipment,” said briefing documents for the board. The transition plan is meant to keep costs and a last-minute rush by localities to a minimum. The Democratic presidential primary is March 3. There are town elections in May, followed by the congressional primaries in June and the general election in November.

Full Article: Months from 2020 election, Va. updates cybersecurity, voting equipment rules | WTOP.

Virginia: State Board of Elections Approves 2020 Election Cybersecurity Standards | The Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star

The Virginia State Board of Elections on Monday unanimously passed minimum security standards for all Virginia elections administrators to follow beginning next year. In 2019, the General Assembly passed HB 2178, calling for new, modern cyber security standards that must be met throughout the Commonwealth before systems are allowed to access Virginia’s election database, according to a news release from the state board. Since July, the Department of Elections along with a workgroup comprised of local government IT professionals and general registrars have met to compose a list of standards that will help to ensure the integrity of Virginia’s voter registration system. These new minimum security requirements for election administrators include, but are not limited to: setting new standards for creating secure passwords, requiring an increased emphasis on utilizing anti-virus protection on their election systems, and developing and training on incident response plans, the release stated.

Full Article: Virginia Approves 2020 Election Cybersecurity Standards.

Virginia: State Board of Elections approves election security standards for 2020 | Augusta Free Press

The Virginia State Board of Elections unanimously passed minimum security standards for all Virginia elections administrators to follow beginning next year. In 2019, the General Assembly passed HB 2178; this legislation called for new, modern cyber security standards that must be met throughout the Commonwealth before systems are allowed to access Virginia’s election database. Since July, the Department of Elections along with a workgroup comprised of local government IT professionals and general registrars have met to compose a list of standards that will help to ensure the integrity of Virginia’s voter registration system. These new minimum security requirements for election administrators include, but are not limited to: setting new standards for creating secure passwords, requiring an increased emphasis on utilizing anti-virus protection on their election systems, and developing and training on incident response plans.

Full Article: State Board of Elections approves election security standards for 2020 : Augusta Free Press.

Virginia: Registrar: Data glitch affected some Stafford ballots, but not enough to change election | James Scott Baron/The Free Lance-Star

Several Stafford County voters claim they were given the wrong ballot at the polls Tuesday, while others say their ballot was missing information. According to county voting officials, a precinct chief reported that some voters checking in at the polls were given incorrect ballots. “Our records reflect that 281 ballots were cast within the six affected precincts from the opening of the polls at 6 a.m. until the resolution of this issue by no later than 6:30 a.m.,” County Registrar Anna Rainey wrote in an email. Six precincts were affected: Hartwood, Simpson and College in the Hartwood District; Griffis and Barrett in the Griffis–Widewater District; and Whitson in the Garrisonville District. All of the precincts affected were split precincts, where voters are given different ballots based on which House of Delegates or state Senate district they live in. Rainey reports the number of affected ballots was between 66 and 281 in legislative races only. No local races were affected. The 30-minute glitch was caused by a data transfer issue to the polls’ computer printers. Those printers help voting officials identify which ballot matches the voter’s precinct.

Full Article: Registrar: Data glitch affected some Stafford ballots, but not enough to change election | News | fredericksburg.com.

Virginia: We now know that Russia specifically targeted Virginia elections in 2016 | Mike Valerio/WUSA

Russian hackers with the Kremlin’s military intelligence unit targeted Virginia’s election infrastructure in 2016 – a cyber operation now confirmed by current and former state election officials. The Russian effort searched for vulnerabilities within Virginia’s online election infrastructure, authorities familiar with the matter said. The specific Russian actions targeting Virginia have not been previously reported. Analysts within the Department of Homeland Security eventually traced the suspicious activity to the GRU, the Russian military spy agency. The attempts to break into Virginia’s election systems did not change any votes, steal any personal information, or affect any voting during the presidential election, the officials stressed. Yet Richmond first received notice of the Russian reconnaissance only after hackers looked for weaknesses within the state’s election websites. Federal investigators disseminated a critical cyber bulletin known as a FLASH alert only days after malicious actors broke into Illinois’s voter database in the summer of 2016. The alert detailed how the Illinois Board of Elections reported an unusual surge in online traffic – traffic later traced back to Russia.

Full Article: Virginia elections Russia hacker influence | wusa9.com.

Virginia: Georgia officials visit Virginia to review paper ballot audits | Mark Niesse/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Georgia election officials observed audits of paper ballots in Virginia this week to learn how to conduct similar checks for accuracy when the state installs its new voting system next year. The trip comes as the Secretary of State’s Office is crafting standards for election audits that must be in place by the November 2020 election.“Georgia has an opportunity to increase voter confidence and strengthen election security by designing effective risk-limiting audits,” said Marian Schneider, president of Verified Voting, a national election integrity organization. “After observing the audit pilots in Virginia this week, Georgia election officials are better equipped to adopt best practices and design robust post-election audits that ensure the outcome reported by tabulation machines is correct.”Elections Director Chris Harvey and Deputy General Counsel Kevin Rayburn witnessed pilot audits in the city of Manassas, Prince William County and Loudoun County on Monday and Tuesday.They learned about how Virginia elections officials store and handle ballots, take random samples for audits and examine voters’ selections. Virginia switched to paper ballots statewide in 2017.Georgia will replace its 17-year-old electronic voting machines next year with a system that produces a printed-out paper ballot.“As Georgia moves toward our new auditable paper-based system, it is important that we learn from other successful states,” said Secretary of State Brad Raffenspeger. “We’re looking forward to instituting industry best practices in order to give Georgians the most accurate voting experience to ensure voter confidence.”With Georgia’s new $107 million system, voters will pick their candidates on touchscreens that are connected to printers that create paper ballots. Voters will then be able to review their ballots before inserting them into scanners for tabulation.

Full Article: Georgia officials visit Virginia to review paper ballot audits.

Virginia: As Russia threat looms, Virginia silent on how much is spent on election security | Mike Valerio/wusa9

Hours after Virginia’s highest law enforcement officer warned Congress of continued and “persistent threats to our election systems,” state officials could not confirm how much Richmond has spent on Virginia’s election security. Virginia received a $9 million grant from the federal government in June 2018 – an investment designed to improve election security in the face of threats from Russia and malicious cyber actors. Yet after months of information requests from WUSA9, the Virginia Department of Elections failed to produce specific dollar amounts or current allocations for the federal funds. The latest online public documents report $0 of $9 million spent as of October 2018, with no recent 2019 filings available. In a letter to members of the U.S. Senate, Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring and 21 other state attorneys general asked for more election security funding, as well as bipartisan election security legislation.

Full Article: As Russia threat looms, Virginia silent on how much is spent on election security | wusa9.com.

Virginia: Federal court approves Virginia redistricting plan | The Washington Post

A federal court on Thursday approved new district boundaries for the Virginia House of Delegates that were drawn by a court-appointed expert and are likely to benefit Democrats in November’s state election. The U.S. District Court for Eastern District of Virginia voted 2 to 1 to finalize the map, which would put six Republicans into districts that would probably become majority Democratic, according to an analysis of recent elections by the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project. Several of those Republicans hold leadership positions — including House Speaker Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights).

Full Article: Federal court approves Virginia redistricting plan - The Washington Post.

Virginia: Applicants of Virginia election security post had personal info exposed | WTOP

Virginia elections’ next chief information officer likely had their personal information exposed, after a job posting for the position included a username and password that could be used to view applicants’ resume and personal details. The Department of Elections told WTOP Tuesday afternoon it is “taking action” to address the issue, which allowed a reporter to see names, resumes, salary information, references, education history, home addresses, emails and phone numbers of 96 people who had applied to be head IT security for Virginia elections. By 5 p.m. Tuesday, the login credentials had been deactivated. The personal information of the applicants appeared to have been exposed since the application window ended more than a week ago, although it is unclear how many people may have accessed the data. Those who applied between Jan. 17 and Feb. 3 live and work across Virginia and the country. Several have military experience or have worked as government contractors, according to the resumes, cover letters and other information they provided on the state Department of Human Resource Management’s Recruitment Management System.

Full Article: Applicants of Virginia election security post had personal info exposed | WTOP.

Virginia: ‘Taking redistricting into a smoke-filled room:’ Why Democrats are pushing back on reform measure | Virginia Mercury

Virginia is closer than ever to figuring out how to fix the process of drawing voting maps, but some Democrats are backing away from the bill that would do it.

House Democrats have serious concerns about the redistricting reform bill that passed  their chamber, saying it doesn’t keep legislators far enough from drawing the districts they serve. “They say it’s independent but that’s like saying up is down and left is right,” said Del. Schuyler VanValkenburg, D-Henrico. “It takes redistricting into a smoke-filled room.” On a party-line vote, the House passed a proposal from Del. Mark Cole, R-Spotsylvania, that would create a 12-member commission, with four members picked each by the speaker of the House of Delegates, the Senate Committee on Rules and the governor. The appointments would be evenly split between Republicans and Democrats.

Full Article: 'Taking redistricting into a smoke-filled room:' Why Democrats are pushing back on reform measure - Virginia Mercury.

Virginia: Advocates slam House GOP bill as redistricting plans advance | Associated Press

As the General Assembly’s session enters its second half, both the House and Senate have passed competing plans on how to redraw legislative districts. But groups that have been fighting gerrymandering prefer the Senate’s proposal, saying it would do more to take politics out of the process. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are concerned that without the proper provisions, the General Assembly may be doomed to repeat mistakes made in 2011 when legislators gerrymandered several Virginia districts for their own benefit by diluting the voting power of African-Americans. Those districts were later struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court and had to be redrawn. Some legislators say there’s an easy fix to make sure it doesn’t happen again: Create an independent commission to redraw the lines, and take the process out of the hands of politicians.

Full Article: Advocates slam House GOP bill as redistricting plans advance - Fairfield Citizen.

Virginia: Electronic return of ballots worries aired | Daily Press

One of the toughest things for the digital world to manage is keeping a transaction private while at the same time assuring everyone it has accurately recorded the deal. That’s what Virginia Wesleyan University mathematician Audrey Malagon, an adviser to the non-profit group Verified Voting, has been telling legislators. Her concern is with a particular transaction: voting when voters far from their polling place return their ballots electronically. Del. Nick Rush, R-Christiansburg, wants to launch a pilot program to allow military personnel serving overseas to do just that. He’s hoping the same kind of blockchain technology used in cybercurrency dealings will make it easier for them to vote. But the problem, Malagon told legislators, is preserving the anonymity of the voting booth or absentee ballot while letting both voter and vote-counter know that a vote was accurately recorded.

Full Article: Electronic return of ballots worries aired - Daily Press.

Virginia: House GOP leaders endorse plan for independent redistricting commission | The Washington Post

Republican leaders of the House of Delegates have put together a plan for establishing an independent redistricting commission, aiming to change the process of drawing legislative boundaries even as they challenge a current redistricting effort in court. The plan rolled out Monday by Del. Mark L. Cole (R-Spotsylvania) and endorsed by Speaker Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) would call for an amendment to the state constitution to set up a 12-member commission appointed mostly by the legislature. The speaker of the House would appoint four members, two from each major political party, while the Senate Rules Committee and the governor would each do the same.

Full Article: Virginia House GOP leaders endorse plan for independent redistricting commission - The Washington Post.

Virginia: House OKs bill requiring school holidays on Election Day | Richmond Times-Dispatch

The Virginia House of Delegates voted Tuesday to require all public schools to treat Election Day as a school holiday. The bill, pitched as a school safety measure that would prevent interactions between voters and children, was approved on a 97-1 vote. “It’s impossible for the schools to properly screen each individual entering the building without slowing down the voting lines,” said Del. Paul Krizek, D-Fairfax, patron of House Bill 1752. “This creates a security concern because it potentially allows strangers unwarranted access to the school building.” Most school systems already have special schedules on Election Day that keep children at home, including the four largest school systems in the Richmond area. Under the proposed law, local school leaders would no longer have the option of keeping school buildings open to students. Only a handful of counties have chosen to continue holding classes on Election Day, but around 30 school divisions don’t have a set policy on the matter, according to Krizek.

Full Article: Virginia House OKs bill requiring school holidays on Election Day | General-assembly | richmond.com.

Virginia: Federal judges choose redistricting map favorable to Democrats; six GOP House districts would get bluer | The Washington Post

Federal judges have selected a Virginia House of Delegates redistricting map that appears to heavily favor Democrats, redrawing the lines of 26 districts and moving several powerful Republicans into unfavorable configurations. Six Republicans would wind up in districts where a majority of voters chose Democratic President Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential election, according to an analysis of the maps by the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project. No current Democrats would see their voter majority change to Republican, based on those election results. Virginia does not register voters by party. If the court’s map selection stands, it would create a favorable environment for Democrats seeking to take control of the House of Delegates in elections this fall, according to the analysis. All 100 seats in the House are on the ballot, and Republicans hold a 51-to-48 majority.

Full Article: Federal judges choose Va. redistricting map favorable to Democrats; six GOP House districts would get bluer - The Washington Post.

Virginia: Lawmakers consider creating new job protections for election officials to prevent political firings | Richmond Times-Dispatch

A bill to create new job protections for the local officials who run elections is advancing in the General Assembly with the support of Virginia registrars who say their livelihoods can be threatened for political or personal reasons. House Bill 2034, patroned by Del. John McGuire, R-Henrico, would require local electoral boards to remove registrars through the court system. Currently, two of three electoral board members can decide to oust a registrar with a majority vote, a system some registrars say jeopardizes the independence of election officials who are supposed to remain above the political fray. Because registrars can be removed at will, they don’t have access to government legal resources if their jobs are on the line. If fired registrars want to challenge their terminations in court, they have to use their own money to hire a lawyer. “It’s not fair that just…. I don’t like the way you wear your jacket and you’re gone,” McGuire said. “This is America.”

Full Article: Virginia lawmakers consider creating new job protections for election officials to prevent political firings | General-assembly | richmond.com.

Virginia: Senators introduce bipartisan amendment to change redistricting | WHSV

As Virginia lawmakers get started on the 2019 session of the General Assembly, an unlikely bipartisan duo has a proposal to fix gerrymandering in the commonwealth. Senator Emmett Hanger, a Republican representing Augusta County in the Shenandoah Valley, and Senator Mamie Locke, a Democrat representing Hampton in the Eastern Shore, have joined forces to propose a bill that would take redistricting out of the hands of politicians and create an independent commission of citizens tasked with drawing election boundaries. “You can’t take politics out of the redistricting process, it’s political in nature, but you can set up a process if our constitution allows it,” Senator Hanger told us.

Full Article: Virginia senators introduce bipartisan amendment to change redistricting.

Virginia: Amendment to restore Virginia felons’ voting rights dies along party lines | WTKR

For now, Virginia will remain among a trio of states — joining only Kentucky and Iowa — with a lifetime ban on voting rights for people convicted of a felony. On Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Privileges and Elections killed an attempt to allow Virginians who have been convicted of a felony to vote. Currently, the Virginia Constitution says felons cannot vote unless their civil rights have been restored by the governor or other authorities. Sen. Mamie Locke, D-Hampton, proposed a resolution — SJ 261 — to delete that passage from the state Constitution. On an 8-6 vote at the committee’s meeting on Wednesday, Locke’s proposed constitutional amendment was “passed by indefinitely,” meaning that it likely is dead for this legislative session. The vote was split down party lines on the 14-member committee, with all eight Republicans voting to kill the measure.

Full Article: Amendment to restore Virginia felons’ voting rights dies along party lines | WTKR.com.

Virginia: Money in politics, voting, term limits among 2019 Virginia elections bills | WTOP

Proposals to limit corporate money in politics and personal use of campaign funds, along with bills to expand absentee voting or address problems with incorrectly assigned voters that wreaked havoc on Virginia’s 2017 elections, are set to be considered by the Virginia General Assembly in the session that begins Wednesday. Redistricting changes are a key issue this year, since any significant change to policy would require an amendment to the state constitution be approved by both this year’s session and the next, before sending it to Virginia voters in 2020. Proposals meant to remedy voters being assigned to the wrong districts would require additional reviews and attempts to restrict the number of precincts split between multiple legislative districts.

Full Article: Money in politics, voting, term limits among 2019 Va. elections bills | WTOP.

Virginia: U.S. Supreme Court rejects Republican bid to delay redistricting in Virginia | The Washington Post

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to delay the process of drawing new districts for at least 11 Virginia House of Delegates seats, rejecting a request for a stay from state Republicans who are contesting the overall effort. A panel of judges from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia ruled last June that the districts had been racially gerrymandered to concentrate black voters and ordered a new map. Most of the affected districts are in the Hampton Roads and Richmond areas. After the General Assembly failed to agree on a redistricting plan last fall, the judges appointed an outside expert to handle it. California professor Bernard Grofman submitted a 131-page report last month outlining options for new boundaries.

Full Article: U.S. Supreme Court rejects Republican bid to delay redistricting in Virginia - The Washington Post.