The State Board of Elections on Wednesday backed a new policy that eliminates for voting purposes any form of photo identification that expired more than 12 months before Election Day. Critics believe the new rule will confuse and make it harder for some Virginians to vote. The board’s 2-1 vote reverses a more lenient policy decision from June that would have accepted at the polls expired but otherwise valid forms of identification permitted under the new voter ID mandate, which took effect July 1. After Sen. Mark D. Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, the sponsor of the new law, expressed concerns, the board reconsidered. It reopened the public comment period for an additional 21 days to explore whether the agency has legal authority to determine what forms of ID are valid. Initially, the board wanted to invalidate expired IDs entirely as an acceptable form of voter identification. But it adopted the alternative policy after reviewing public comments and a legal analysis by Attorney General Mark R. Herring, who concluded that some of the language in the policy could create confusion at the polls and lead to unequal treatment of voters or even prevent voters from casting a ballot.
Virginians who let their driver’s licenses, passports or other photo IDs expire will still get a chance to vote, as long as those documents aren’t too old. The State Board of Elections struck a compromise Wednesday between those who argued that an expired ID was not valid and those who said a photo ID should be valid no matter how long ago it expired. “The board tried to take a middle ground … we wanted to have a grace period,” said Secretary Don Palmer. It decided that photo IDs that expired within 12 months of an election day were valid for voting purposes, as long as they look genuine.
The Virginia Department of Elections has erroneously mailed notifications to about 125,000 registered Virginia voters raising uncertainty regarding their voting status. The letter, dated June 23 and signed by Secretary of the State Board of Elections Don Palmer, informs the recipients that records show they may also be registered to vote in another state and that state law requires them to update or cancel their voter registration when they change residences. “If you no longer consider the Virginia voter registration address printed below to be your address of residence, please help us keep the commonwealth’s voter registration rolls accurate by completing and returning the ‘request to cancel voter registration’ from at the bottom of this letter,” it says. In an email sent to Virginia registrars Tuesday, Matthew J. Davis, chief information officer with the Department of Elections, said that the letters mistakenly went to individuals who have not moved out of state. The letter that the Virginia Department of Elections mistakenly sent to 125,000 voters. Read the Letter
The Virginia State Board of Elections this morning approved the final phases of the implementation plan for the new voter ID law that will take effect July 1. In the coming months, election officials will work with vendors to create a photo ID card that will meet requirements under the new legislation and that will be provided to voters for free. They will also train staff at local registrars’ offices of the state’s 133 localities and launch a statewide campaign to inform voters of the changes in law. “I think we’ve received enough input from stakeholders and the board has reviewed the plan several times,” said Don Palmer, secretary of the elections board. … Under the new law, documents that do not contain a photograph of the voter are no longer acceptable forms of identification when a person is voting in person. However, the new law allows voters without photo ID to cast a provisional ballot on Election Day. The voter then has four days to present identification to their local electoral board for their vote to be counted.
Democrat Mark R. Herring continued to widen his lead over Republican Mark D. Obenshain on the second day of the statewide recount in the race for attorney general. As ballots were being counted Tuesday, Herring was 866 votes ahead of Obenshain by 7 p.m., said Herring’s legal counsel Marc Elias. “We continue to gain margin at a steady pace, and we expect to continue to do so through the rest of the recount,” Elias told reporters Tuesday. “We become more confident as this recount progresses.” Less than 120 ballots had been challenged by partisan election officials to be sent to the Richmond Circuit Court, where a three-judge panel will begin reviewing them Thursday. Of 133 localities statewide, 98 had finished their tallies by 6 p.m. Tuesday.
As attorneys and judges in Richmond carved out the ground rules for the statewide recount in the attorney general race last week, Spooner Hull logged more than 2,000 miles on Virginia roads in five days to make sure that the voting equipment will be ready to process tens of thousands of ballots in the coming days. Hull, 67, is a state-certified vendor who sells and services voting machines in 40 localities statewide. He has worked for decades in the background, doing his part to protect the integrity of the electoral system and allow democracy to run its course, unhindered by technical errors that could cause dramatic shifts in Virginia’s political landscape. “Here in Virginia, we have a very good election system, and it works,” said Hull, who bought his company, Atlantic Election Services Inc., from his father 33 years ago. Since then, he has serviced countless local elections and every presidential and state election — including two previous statewide recounts. His years in the business have strengthened his faith in the state’s electoral system. “I can assure you when any state in this country undertakes a rewrite of their election law, they will come to Virginia and look at our code and how we do things,” Hull said.
The most extensive recount in modern Virginia political history will involve tens of thousands of people statewide to determine the state’s next attorney general. The recount begins Monday in Fairfax County and the cities of Alexandria and Chesapeake before moving to every jurisdiction in the state on Tuesday and Wednesday. Those three localities get a head start because of the extensive hand counting of ballots entailed in their recount or simply the sheer number of ballots and machines to be checked, which is the case in Fairfax County. A three-judge recount court will convene on Thursday in Richmond to rule on challenged ballots that emerge from the re-tabulation. Democrat Mark Herring should know by Friday if his 165-vote edge holds or if Republican Mark Obenshain has picked up enough votes to surpass his fellow state senator —or closed it sufficiently to take it one step further. Obenshain’s camp has signaled the recount might not be the candidate’s last gasp. They could play a rare, little-used card, taking the race to the General Assembly as a contested election and letting the Republican-majority body decide the race or call for a new election.
With implementation of Virginia’s new voter ID law seven months away, state election officials are scrambling to affordably create a photo ID card that will be provided to voters for free. They also are gearing up to educate the public about the law that will take effect July 1. The state is organizing a marketing campaign and vetting vendors charged with the creation of a voter identification card that will meet requirements under the new law, according to a plan and timeline developed by the State Board of Elections. The new ID will be available in July for voters who do not have other acceptable forms of identification. Other acceptable forms of photo ID include a Virginia driver’s license, a U.S. passport or any other photo ID issued by the United States, Virginia or one of its political subdivisions, a student ID issued by any institute of higher learning in Virginia or any employee identification card. Voters who need the new ID card can apply for the card with their local registrars in a process similar to obtaining a driver’s license at the Department of Motor Vehicles.
A recount of the votes in the Virginia attorney general’s race will begin Dec. 16, but a number of jurisdictions, including Alexandria, are facing hand recounts thanks to voting machines considered outdated by the state’s electoral board. Only 165 votes of more than 2.2 million cast separate Democrat Mark R. Herring and Republican Mark D. Obenshain — a 0.007 percent difference that amounts to the closest finish to a race in Virginia history. A three-judge recount court in Richmond on Wednesday announced the process would begin Dec. 17 and 18 for a majority of the state’s voting districts, though Fairfax County, the state’s largest district, was given the go-ahead to begin its recount a day earlier, on Dec. 16. Donald Palmer, secretary of the Virginia State Board of Elections, said officials would prefer the ballots be tabulated by optical scanners. In some cases, though, jurisdictions use machines that can’t isolate just one of the races that appeared on the ballot — in this case, the attorney general’s race.
Virginia elections officials say some voting equipment used in the November election doesn’t meet state requirements. State Board of Elections chairman Charles E. Judd said that there should be uniformity in the election process. “This vast diversity of equipment in the state is problematic,” Judd said. “We should have two kinds of equipment and not 10 or 12 kinds around the state. We should have some uniformity so it applies to the code and it makes it more efficient.” Judd and other board members discussed the issue Monday during a meeting, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.
State elections officials expressed concern Monday that some of the voting equipment used in November balloting is outdated and does not meet requirements under state law. Don Palmer, secretary of the State Board of Elections, said at a board meeting that some of the voting machines are not able to flag overvotes or undervotes, which would allow those ballots to be inspected manually. Republican Mark D. Obenshain hopes that the proper count of such ballots in the upcoming recount will sway the election result of the attorney general’s race, in which Democrat Mark R. Herring was certified the winner by 165 votes. An undervote would be one in which a selection would be made in at least one race, but not others. Overvotes include ballots in which two candidates were originally marked for a race, but one was crossed out. “The code requires in a recount situation that undervotes, overvotes and write-ins be rejected so they can be analyzed personally by the recount teams and observers of each party,” Palmer said. If there is a dispute over a particular ballot — meaning if the voter’s intention isn’t immediately clear — it would go to the recount court in Richmond, a panel of three judges headed by Richmond Circuit Court Judge Beverly W. Snukals.
Virginia: Attorney General certification today; candidates bracing for recount | Richmond Times-Dispatch
The two candidates for attorney general are gearing up for a recount in the closest statewide contest in modern Virginia history, pending today’s meeting in which the State Board of Elections will certify the results. State Sen. Mark R. Herring, the Democratic candidate, maintains a 165-vote lead over his Republican opponent, state Sen. Mark D. Obenshain — that’s about 0.007 percent of more than 2.2 million votes cast statewide — following extensive canvassing in several localities. If a candidate is within one-half of a percentage point, the state will pay for a recount. If the margin is between one-half of a percentage point and 1 percentage point, a candidate can urge a recount at his own expense. Charles E. Judd, chairman of the elections board, expects a recount. “We’re probably looking at the middle of December. It will be a long day for some localities,” Judd said Friday. At 9 a.m. today, the board will review the election results provided by the local electoral boards. “The localities forwarded the data, the local boards went through that in great detail and sent it to us,” Judd said. “Our staff has been checking the data for accuracy and they are currently in the process of preparing the documents that we will review,” he said.
A last-minute change means Fairfax County voters who cast provisional ballots may face troubles getting them counted. Nearly 500 voters cast provisional ballots in the county, many more across Virginia, in Tuesday’s election. But the promise from Democratic and Republican parties to make sure their ballots got counted is now no good. The state Electoral Board decided Friday to change the rules that had been followed in Fairfax County and ban legal representatives from stepping in to help get the ballot counted, unless the voter him or herself is there. County Electoral Board Secretary Brian Shoeneman says he and board chairman Seth Stark disagree with the ruling, but they have to comply. The board is voting on some provisional ballots later Saturday. “The office of the Attorney General advised us that this was the correct reading of the statute,” State Board of Elections Secretary Don Palmer says.
On Friday October 18, a federal district judge in Virginia’s northern district rejected the Democratic Party’s request for an injunction blocking the removal of 38,000 voters from the Virginia voter rolls. Democrats contended that the lists used to remove voters are inaccurate. The road to this case emerged in the spring of 2013, when the state board of elections, in an attempt to combat voter fraud, decided to examine the Virginia voter rolls to weed out voters also registered in other states. The purge was conducted using a program called Crosscheck, which matches Virginia’s rolls against voters registered in other states. Crosscheck revealed 308,000 Virginia voters with duplicate registrations. Twenty-five states use this program. Democrats contend that it is “deeply flawed.” The decision to remove voters from the rolls resulted from Virginia state code “§ 24.2-404(4) and the newly enacted §§ 24.2-404(10) and 24.2-404.4 effective July 1, 2013. These statutes collectively require the State Board of Elections” (SBE) to coordinate with other states to identify and remove duplicate voter registrations to avoid voter fraud, explained Secretary of State Board of Elections Don Palmer in an interview with State of Elections (SOE). The board then voted “to refer any alleged double voting” to the office of the Attorney General, headed by gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli.
The State Board of Elections has identified 10,000 dead individuals on the Virginia voter rolls. The voters were identified through a data comparison between the Social Security Administration’s death master file and the current list of registered voters in Virginia. Local registrars will now begin removing the names from the rolls, but the finding is likely the tip of the iceberg. Only 15 million of the 60 million records in the death master file have been matched against the state’s voter list thus far.