HJR 681/SJR 363

Joint Subcommittee to Study Virginia's Election Process and Voting Technologies

June 14, 2001, Richmond

The executive director of the Election Center in Houston, Doug Lewis, gave the morning keynote presentation. The center provides support to election administration officials on a nationwide basis, training and education programs to elections officials, and staff support to the National Association of State Election Directors and to the Elections Reform Task Force, which will be issuing recommendations for election reforms later in the summer. He anticipates approximately 80 concrete recommendations.

His remarks covered the root causes of the 2000 election problems in Florida and potential cures:

  • Lack of a clear definition of a valid vote and a standard for determining voter intent. State law should provide the definition and statewide standard to be applied.
  • Lack of clear recount standards. State law should provide the standard for counting votes in recounts.
  • Lack of a realistic timeframe and deadlines for conducting recounts. State law should take into account the various recount situations from local to statewide recounts. State law should provide for recounts by equipment when equipment can be used because equipment is more accurate. Hand recounts should be used only for overvotes, undervotes, and spoiled ballots.
  • Confusion generated by an automatic purge of all felons from the registered voter lists. [Not pertinent to Virginia, which has a continuous update program.]
  • The use of different types of voting equipment was not a root cause, but voters made more errors with some types of equipment. The equipment should use precinct counting devices (not central counting systems) and give voters the opportunity to correct overvotes.
  • Communications problems between agencies accepting voter registrations under the NVRA and the state voter registration agency. Careful coordination is required to assure voters who believe they have registered at an agency are placed on the voter lists or notified otherwise.
  • No process for casting a provisional ballot when the voter's name is not on the registered voter list but he claims to be registered. [Not pertinent to Virginia which provides for provisional or conditional ballots in such situations.]
  • Inexperienced voters or new voting equipment. States should provide instruction and examine the use of oral taped instructions or videos in the polling place.

Following these remarks, the subcommittee and additional invited participants broke into five discussion groups of approximately 12 persons each on

  • the administrative structure for elections,
  • voter registration issues,
  • election procedures and absentee voting,
  • voting equipment, and
  • voter intent, recounts and contests, and election fraud.

A spokesperson for each group reported back to the full group at noon on those issues discerned to be the most important for study by the subcommittee during the summer. Those high priority items included

  • resources and funding for the State Board,
  • maintenance of a statewide voter registration database,
  • review of restoration of voting rights for felons,
  • training for election officers and education for voters,
  • examination of how to treat overvotes,
  • evaluation of the error rates of various types of voting equipment, and
  • careful statutory treatment of recount procedures and the proper statewide standard to determine voter intent.

The subcommittee set up two task forces: #1 --Technology and Voting Equipment, to meet July 27th, and #2 --Voter Registration and Election Day Processes, to meet July 26th and August 28th.

The Honorable James K. O'Brien, Jr., Chairman
Legislative Services contact: Mary Spain


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