Virginia: What might a redistricting special session mean? | Richmond Times-Dispatch

A special session to redraw Virginia’s congressional districts could give Gov. Terry McAuliffe the power to hold out for a new map that turns at least one additional seat to the Democrats. McAuliffe plans to call an Aug. 17 special session to redraw Virginia’s congressional districts by Sept. 1 to comply with an order by federal judges who say legislators packed too many blacks into the 3rd District. “The governor has a lot of leverage here,” said Robert D. Holsworth, a former professor and dean at Virginia Commonwealth University who led then-Gov. Bob McDonnell’s redistricting advisory panel in 2011. “The real issue is how much sacrifice he will exact from the Republicans.”

Virginia: McAuliffe plans Aug. 17 special session to redraw congressional map | Richmond Times-Dispatch

Gov. Terry McAuliffe is calling an Aug. 17 special session of the General Assembly to comply with a court order that legislators redraw the state’s congressional map by Sept. 1. “This special session is an opportunity to work together to fix Virginia’s congressional district lines so that politicians do not have a greater say in who represents Virginians than voters do,” McAuliffe said in a statement Tuesday. “I look forward to working in a bipartisan way to meet the court’s mandate to pass a fair and equitable map by the court’s deadline.”

Virginia: McAuliffe announces reforms to restoration of rights process | Greene County Record

Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced late last month two changes to the restoration of rights process, representing the latest steps in pursuit of his priority to ensure all Virginians have the opportunity to exercise their voting and civil rights. Under the new reform, outstanding court costs and fees will no longer prohibit an individual from having his or her rights restored. “We have forced these men and women to battle a complicated and bewildering tangle of red tape to reach the voting booth, and too often we still turn them away,” McAuliffe said. “These men and women will still be required to pay their costs and fees, but their court debts will no longer serve as a financial barrier to voting, just as poll taxes did for so many years in Virginia.”

Virginia: 2 GOP Lawmakers Help McAuliffe Kill Voter ID Bill | Roanoke Star

Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s veto of a photo identification bill was upheld by two Republican lawmakers who maintained that the election measure was flawed. Siding with a solid bloc of Democrats, Delegate Bob Bloxom Jr. left Republicans one vote short of overriding the governor. The freshman lawmaker said requiring that mail-in requests for an absentee ballot be accompanied by a copy of the voter’s photo “wouldn’t solve anything.” Delegate James Edmunds, R-Halifax, also bolted from the party line. “A picture of someone’s photo doesn’t get compared with anything (at the election office.) It could be a picture of anyone,” Bloxom, of Mappsville, told McAuliffe made much the same argument.

Editorials: Virginia lawmakers should have listened to the governor on voting machines | Richmond Times-Dispatch

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.

Voting Blogs: Virginia DOE releases report critical of WinVote system | electionlineWeekly

On April 1, the Virginia Department of Elections released an interim report citing critical, potential security concerns with the WinVote DREs, in particular with the wireless capability of the system. Despite the date, this was no joke. Following scattered reports of problems with voting systems in the state during the November 2014 election, Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) called for an investigation into the irregularities. The State Board of Elections began its review in late 2014, but it wasn’t until early 2015 that the extent of the problem became obvious. “We really didn’t know until early February that there was a potential security issue with the WinVotes,” said Edgardo Cortes, commissioner of elections for the Commonwealth. “At that point we moved quickly to conduct additional testing, but it wasn’t until the preliminary test results were provided on March 26 that we knew how serious a vulnerability we were facing.”  Twenty-nine localities — about 20 percent of the precincts in the Commonwealth — use the WinVote DREs and of those, 10 are facing June primaries.

Virginia: Report cites security issues with some AVS WinVote voting machines | Associated Press

An investigation into voting irregularities during the November general election has raised serious security concerns about equipment used in about one-fifth of Virginia’s precincts, a new report says. The report issued late Wednesday says the state Board of Elections should consider decertifying the WinVote touchscreen system and barring its use in future elections. The board is expected to conduct a public hearing on this and other options in the next few days. Link: Full DOE report on Virginia voting equipment

Virginia: McAuliffe vetoes six redistricting bills | The Washington Post

Gov. Terry McAuliffe vetoed six Republican redistricting bills live on his monthly call-in radio show Thursday, then took the highly unusual step of signing the budget plan produced by Virginia’s GOP-led legislature without a single amendment. McAuliffe’s actions came one day before the Democrat is expected to announce vetoes on a raft of Republican legislation turning on political flashpoints such as guns, home schooling, “living wage” rules and the limits of federal power. Taken together, the moves seem intended to project twin images of McAuliffe, as both bipartisan dealmaker and stalwart defender of certain liberal causes.

National: Push to restore voting rights for felons gathers momentum | MSNBC

“It would be transformative if everybody voted,” President Obama told a crowd in Cleveland Wednesday. He even mused about the idea of making voting mandatory. That’s not going to happen any time soon. But in the wake of record low voter turnout in last fall’s midterm elections, a movement is growing in Washington and around the country to dismantle a set of restrictions that keep nearly 6 million Americans from the polls: felon disenfranchisement laws. Many state restrictions on felon voting were imposed in the wake of Reconstruction, as the South looked for ways to suppress black political power. But now, the falling crime rates of the last two decades have prompted a broader reassessment of tough-on-crime policies. Meanwhile, the ongoing Republican-led assault on voting has triggered a backlash that aims to expand, rather than contract, voting rights. On Wednesday, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), backed by an array of civil- and voting-rights groups, introduced a bill that would restore voting rights for federal elections to Americans with past criminal convictions upon their release from incarceration. That came on the heels of a similar but more limited bill introduced last month by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) that would apply only to non-violent offenders. Neither measure is likely to get much traction in the Republican-controlled Congress. But in the states, there has been plenty of movement lately.

Virginia: Federal court gives legislature more time to redraw districts | The Washington Post

A federal court on Monday gave the Virginia General Assembly more time to redraw the state’s congressional map, which the panel ruled unconstitutional for diluting the influence of African American voters. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia moved the April 1 deadline to either Sept. 1 or 60 days after the U.S. Supreme Court rules on a pending appeal from congressional Republicans, whichever comes first. The ruling favors the approach taken by House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford), who said Friday that he would not redraw the lines until the appeal was decided. Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) disagreed and said last week that “running out the clock” unnecessarily confuses what, he said, should be a straightforward process. “The governor remains ready to work with the General Assembly to pass a fair, nonpartisan congressional map that complies with the court’s standing ruling on this issue,” McAuliffe’s spokesman, Brian Coy, said Monday.

Virginia: House has no immediate plans to redraw congressional map | The Washington Post

The speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates said Friday that he will not redraw congressional district lines while appeals are pending in a federal court case that deemed the map unconstitutional for diluting the influence of African American voters. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia last year ordered the Virginia General Assembly to remake the map by April 1, but congressional Republicans quickly appealed the ruling. House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) said initiating the redistricting process could create confusion if the Supreme Court reverses the lower court. “The Virginia House of Delegates fully intends to exercise its legal right to attempt to remedy any legal flaw ultimately found by the courts with respect to the current congressional districts,” Howell said in a statement Friday. “However, we believe it would be inappropriate to act before the defendants have fully litigated this case. We are confident that a stay will be granted.”

Editorials: Restoration of voting rights ought to be automatic | Richmond Times Dispatch

Gov. Bob McDonnell expedited the restoration of voting rights of nonviolent felons who have completed their sentences. Gov. Terry McAuliffe has built on the precedent. The state Senate has taken the next step. The chamber has given first approval to a proposed constitutional amendment to make restoration automatic. Nonviolent felons would not need to apply for it. Section 1 of Article II in the Virginia Constitution describes qualifications of voters. The amendment adds the italicized language to the text: “In elections by the people, the qualifications of voters shall be as follows: Each voter shall be a citizen of the United States, shall be eighteen years of age, shall fulfill the residence requirements set forth in this section, and shall be registered to vote pursuant to this article. No person who has been convicted of a felony shall be qualified to vote unless his civil rights have been restored by the Governor or other appropriate authority.

Editorials: GOP ignoring real issue with voting: Old machines | The Virginian-Pilot

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.

Virginia: Is voting machine replacement funding slipping away? | Daily Press

When Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced plans to fund replacement voting machines with Rep. Scott Rigell, R- Virginia Beach, at his side, it looked like an unusual bipartisan accord on election matters. But the staff of both the House Appropriations Committee and the Senate Finance Committee recommend dropping McAuliffe’s plan — $1.7 million from the operating budget and borrowing $28 million through the sale of $28 million worth of Virginia Public Building Authority bonds.

Virginia: Virginia Beach moves to get new voting machines | 13News

New voting machines are coming to Virginia Beach. City Council Tuesday is expected to approve spending money right away to get the machines in time for the June primary election. In a letter to council, General Registrar Donna Patterson reminded Council that several TSX machines had to be removed from service during the November 4, 2014 election. 13News Now reported on issues with 32 voting machines at 25 different precincts that showed signs of irregularities and had to be pulled out of service. The City used 820 machines that election.

Virginia: Senate bill calls for runoff vote in close elections | Washington Times

Virginia’s GOP-led Senate passed a bill Monday that would require candidates for statewide election and for the U.S. Senate to win the outright majority of votes on Election Day or else face a runoff with the second-highest vote-getter. Describing an election system similar to that of Louisiana, the legislation faces an uncertain future in the state’s Republican-controlled House, where a similar bill died in committee earlier this session. It also would have to be signed by Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat who was elected in 2013 after receiving less than 50 percent of the vote. The bill’s Senate patron said the measure would ensure that elected officials receive majority support, and comes after elections in 2013 and 2014 in which several Democratic candidates, including Sen. Mark Warner, were elected to office with less than the majority of the vote.

National: Fighting red maps in purple states | Politico

Based on the big elections in Virginia in recent years, the Old Dominion is turning reliably blue: victories by Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, two Senate wins by Democrats in two years, and Terry McAuliffe’s triumph in between. So how is it that Republicans have a stranglehold on the state’s congressional delegation, holding eight seats to Democrats’ three? That question is at the heart of a legal battle over whether Republicans have improperly leveraged their power over the redistricting process. The outcome could have far-reaching implications because the contours of congressional districts drawn by Republican-controlled legislatures are seen as a driving reason why Democrats may be locked in the House minority until at least after the next census in 2020. In Virginia, Democrats are hoping to redraw the lines to make some GOP districts more competitive after a panel of federal judges ruled recently that the Republican-led Legislature’s decision to pack African-American voters into the 3rd Congressional District, which is represented by Democratic Rep. Bobby Scott, was motivated purely by race — a violation of the 14th Amendment. Other battleground states such as North Carolina and Florida also have redistricting battles pending.

Virginia: Governor eyes new election machines | GoDanRiver

If Gov. Terry McAuliffe has his way, there will be new voting machines across the commonwealth in time for the 2015 November elections. McAuliffe announced in a news release last week that his proposed budget includes $28 million to replace the variety of voting machines in the state with a single type of machine that will use paper ballots that get scanned into an electronic format. The switch will remove touch-screen voting machines that proved to be a problem in the 2014 election, during which 49 localities reported voting equipment issues with no paper trail to fall back on, McAuliffe said. “[W]e cannot expect Virginians to come to the polls on Election Day if we cannot ensure that their votes will be counted correctly and in a timely manner,” McAuliffe said in the release. “The problems Virginians encountered on Election Day this year were unacceptable, which is why I have taken unprecedented steps to replace all legacy voting equipment in the commonwealth with state-of-the-art machines that have paper trails and will update our Department of Elections website. The money will cover new voting machines for 2,166 precincts in the state as well as reimburse 401 precincts that have already purchased the approved machines.

Virginia: Felons to get faster voting process | Richmond Times-Dispatch

Gov. Terry McAuliffe plans to announce today that he will shrink the time violent felons must wait to seek reinstatement of their voting rights and will remove some offenses from that list. The policy slated to take effect April 21 comes on top of years of work to streamline the process, and aims to make the system easier to understand and to allow more felons to petition the state more quickly. In a series of changes to the state’s restoration of rights process, McAuliffe plans to collapse the application waiting period from five to three years for people convicted of violent felonies and others that require a waiting period, and to remove drug offenses from that list. In Virginia, only the governor can restore civil rights to felons, and attempts over the years to change the Virginia Constitution to allow for automatic restoration have failed.

Virginia: Panel adopts ideas for changing Virginia’s redistricting process | The Washington Post

The government integrity panel created by Gov. Terry McAuliffe adopted recommendations on Monday for an overhaul of Virginia’s redistricting process, embracing an approach the Republican-dominated House of Delegates has consistently rejected. The panel wants to amend the Virginia Constitution to create an independent commission to redraw lawmakers’ districts, and pass a law prohibiting that commission from considering election results when setting district boundaries. Both suggestions would have to be approved by the legislature — an especially unlikely outcome in the House, where similar bills have died in committee. One proposal also would have to be approved by voters.

Virginia: Ethics panel calls for nonpartisan redistricting | The Virginian-Pilot

Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s ethics advisory panel today endorsed creation of an independent commission to redraw legislative districts without regard to partisan politics. The Virginia General Assembly currently draws districts, and convincing legislators there’s a better way won’t be easy. The ethics panel is “not naive enough to think that whatever we recommend is going to be enthusiastically received by members of the General Assembly,” said former Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, a co-chairman. “But it is an issue that we need to keep front and center.” The Commission on Integrity and Public Confidence in State Government was created in September after the conviction of former Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, on public corruption charges. Bolling, a Republican, is joined by former Democratic U.S. Rep. Rick Boucher in leading the 10-member panel.

Virginia: Virginia getting new voting machines | The Gazette-Virginian

A total of $28 million is included in the state budget to provide new voting machines to precincts across Virginia, so all polling places will have uniform, state-of-the-art equipment for the 2015 November elections, Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced Monday. On Election Day 2014, 49 Virginia localities reported voting equipment issues, and currently Virginia precincts are using a wide variety of machines that are often outdated and lack paper trails. McAuliffe also will include in his budget $30,000 per fiscal year to update the Department of Elections’ website to ensure reliable reporting for future elections.

Virginia: Governor Announces New Voting Machines | The Virginian-Pilot

Gov. Terry McAuliffe is proposing that the state spend $28 million next year to replace Virginia’s voting machines. The new technology would create a paper trail for each ballot cast, something not all the voting machines used in Virginia do. About 2,100 precincts would get new machines under the plan, and another 400 that have already upgraded would be reimbursed. McAuliffe said Monday it’s necessary to ensure fair, efficient and effective voting, even though next year’s budget is tight. “This goes to the core of who we are as Virginians,” he said. The governor spoke at City Hall. In the November election, voters and candidates here and in Newport News reported difficulties casting accurate votes using touch-screen machines.

Virginia: McAuliffe proposes $28 million to replace voting machines around the state | Richmond Times-Dispatch

Gov. Terry McAuliffe is proposing $28 million to fund digital scan voting machines for precincts across the state in time for the November 2015 general election. McAuliffe noted in a statement that 49 Virginia localities reported problems with voting equipment on Nov. 4. Virginia localities now use various types of equipment, including some machines with no paper trail. Under McAuliffe’s proposal the state would cover the cost of purchasing the new voting machines for 2,166 precincts across Virginia. The state would reimburse 401 precincts that have already purchased the approved type of machine. The new digital scan machines would have a paper trail. On Wednesday McAuliffe will brief the legislature’s money committees on his proposed amendments to the state’s two-hyear budget covering July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2016. McAuliffe’s proposal will include $30,000 per budget year to update the Department of Elections’ website, which crashed on Election Night.

Virginia: Congressional redistricting could give governor leverage | Richmond Times-Dispatch

Republican legislators who lead the General Assembly face an unusual prospect as they redraw the state’s congressional map to comply with a court order. For the first time in nearly a quarter century, a Democratic governor must sign off on legislators’ plan to redraw congressional district boundaries. That means Gov. Terry McAuliffe could hold out for a more competitive map than the current configuration in which Republicans hold eight of the state’s 11 U.S. House seats. “The Republicans, I think, are really in a bit of a bind,” said Bob Holsworth, a veteran political analyst who headed then-Gov. Bob McDonnell’s bipartisan redistricting panel in 2011. McDonnell did not push for the panel’s recommendations, which the legislature ignored. In 2012 McDonnell signed off on a plan written by General Assembly Republicans.

National: On Facebook, Nobody Knows You’re a Voter. Well, Almost Nobody. | New York Times

Your Facebook profile doesn’t have boxes to check which political party you belong to or whether you voted in the last election. But political organizations who already know that can now deliver Facebook ads to fit your political preferences. At least two statewide campaigns during the past year have used the new tool, “Custom Managed Audiences,” to reach Facebook users who are registered voters or political supporters. Facebook says Terry McAuliffe’s election as Virginia governor in 2013 and this year’s re-election effort of John Cornyn, a Texas Republican senator, are examples of successful user targeting via voter lists. The company first introduced the tool in February 2013 and recently upgraded its capabilities. Linking the two isolated sets of data and teasing out information on voter preferences and opinions is a new front in microtargeting. Even smaller campaigns could use the technique to sway small but crucial sets of voters with very specific messages. Facebook’s most notable achievement may be that it makes some of the sophisticated approaches used during the 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns affordable to other kinds of political contests.

Editorials: Duo ballot an election headache in Virginia | The Daily Progress

This complicates things. Gov. Terry McAuliffe has called for a special election in the 7th Congressional District to fill the vacancy being left by Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Henrico. Mr. Cantor was defeated in the Republican primary in June and lost the right to defend his seat. Now he says he will resign this month. Granted, Mr. Cantor’s decision to leave Congress in August was billed as an effort to spare Virginia two additional months of representation by a lame-duck leader. But his surprise move also pushes candidates and, to some degree, voters into an accelerated scramble. Whoever wins the special election in November will have to take his seat in Congress almost immediately — two months earlier than expected. Had not Mr. Cantor announced his retirement, there would have been no special election and the winner of the general election would have been seated in January. The accelerated timetable may pose a hardship even for major party candidates Dave Brat, R-Henrico, and Jack Trammell, D-Louisa. And it certainly will pose a hardship for Libertarian candidate James A. Carr Jr. of Louisa County.

Virginia: Cantor to resign from Congress on Aug. 18 | Richmond Times-Dispatch

Less than two months after his stunning primary upset and just hours after stepping down as House majority leader, Rep. Eric Cantor said Thursday that he will resign his seat in the House of Representatives effective Aug. 18. “I want to make sure that the constituents in the 7th District will have a voice in what will be a very consequential lame-duck session,” Cantor said in an exclusive interview with the Richmond Times-Dispatch on Thursday afternoon. Cantor said he has asked Gov. Terry McAuliffe to call a special election for his district that coincides with the general election on Nov. 4. By having a special election in November, the winner would take office immediately, rather than in January with the next Congress.

Virginia: McAuliffe restores voting rights of 2,500 felons | Richmond Times-Dispatch

Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced today that his administration has restored the voting rights of more than 2,500 non-violent felons who have served their time.
“Virginians who have served their time deserve a second chance to become productive members of society again,” said McAuliffe said in a statement. “I am proud of the reforms my administration has undertaken to expand and expedite the rights restoration process and the work my team has done restoring Virginians’ voting rights so former offenders can lead successful, productive lives here in the commonwealth,” he said.

Virginia: McAuliffe to speed rights restoration | Richmond Times-Dispatch

Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced today that he will shrink the time violent felons must wait to seek reinstatement of their voting rights and will remove some offenses from that list. The policy slated to take effect April 21 comes on top of years of work to streamline the process, and aims to make the system easier to understand and to allow more felons to petition the state more quickly. In a series of changes to the state’s restoration of rights process, McAuliffe wants to collapse the application waiting period from five to three years for people convicted of violent felonies and others that require a waiting period, and to remove drug offenses from that list. In Virginia, only the governor can restore civil rights to felons, and attempts over the years to change the Virginia Constitution to allow for automatic restoration have failed.