The head of Virginia’s elections board on Tuesday postponed action on a plan that would let people registering to vote skip questions about their citizenship and criminal history, saying it needs to be reworked. James Alcorn, chairman of the Virginia State Board of Elections, said in an email to fellow elections officials that he was pulling the proposal from the board’s September agenda. At the same time, he asserted there was still a need to revamp existing voter registration forms, which seem to routinely trip up would-be voters. The move puts off action on a seemingly arcane administrative matter that hit a nerve with Republicans on the hot-button issues of illegal immigration, voter fraud and the restoration of felons’ right to vote. Hundreds of people flocked to a board meeting two weeks ago to oppose making questions about citizenship and felony convictions optional on voter registration forms. They said the change would make it easier for felons and illegal immigrants to vote fraudulently and suggested that Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) was seeking to pump up Democratic voter rolls in the crucial swing state ahead of the 2016 presidential elections.
When the plan became public just ahead of the July meeting, McAuliffe’s spokesman referred questions about it to the Department of Elections. Officials there said the proposal was meant to help otherwise qualified voters who simply forgot to check a box or two on the form.
“The recommendation by the State Board of Elections produced a healthy debate, and the opportunity for public comment has provided a beneficial exchange of viewpoints,” McAuliffe spokeswoman Christina Nuckols said in an email Tuesday. “The Governor has closely followed the discussion and he will continue to do so during the upcoming analysis of this issue.”