HJR 681/SJR 363

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

November 26, 2001, Richmond

Task Force #2—Voter Registration and Election Day Processes

The Task Force took up the items held over from the October 12 joint subcommittee meeting and its list of recommendations requiring further consideration. It took the following actions:

  • Declined to recommend legislation to require colleges and universities to publish information on voter registration in handbooks for new students because the potential benefit does not justify the added burden. Colleges and universities already promote voter registration opportunities for students under federal law requirements.
  • Agreed to recommend legislation to allow the postponement of primaries and local elections in emergency situations.
  • Agreed to recommend a constitutional amendment to allow the postponement of General Assembly and statewide office elections in emergency situations.
  • Agreed to recommend modified FOIA requirements for the State Board of Elections and local boards in limited circumstances. Staff is to circulate the draft legislation to interested parties.
  • Agreed to recommend revisions in the recount process to limit the scope of the recount proceeding, to provide for a single redetermination of the vote, and to rely on the printouts from optical scan and punchcard tabulators. If the tabulator printouts are not clear, or the court requests, the ballots will be rerun through a tabulator programmed to set aside write-in votes and, if possible, overvotes and undervotes. These ballots and any rejected ballots will be subject to a hand count conducted in accordance with state board and statutory standards.

November 29, 2001, Richmond

Joint Subcommittee

Public Comments

During a public comment period, the subcommittee received a packet of materials e-mailed to the subcommittee’s web site in response to the posting of the recommendations of Task Forces #1 and #2. It also heard from a number of speakers who advised that funding for the election process, equipment, and state and local election administration is a priority, that FOIA should not restrict electoral board activities on election day, that the proposed FOIA exemptions are too broad, and that there is a need to review the larger picture of the structure, duties, and funding for state and local electoral boards and registrars.

Task Force #2 Report

Senator Bolling reviewed the recommendations and legislation offered by his task force. The joint subcommittee agreed to the following recommendations:

  • Virginia should continue to maintain and upgrade the Virginia Voter Registration System (VVRS). [No legislation.]
  • DMV’s voter registration process should be modified to allow for print-on-demand voter applications. [Budget amendment required.]
  • Virginia should continue to improve its voter registration list maintenance procedures to ensure that the list is as current and accurate as possible by using Social Security deceased lists to match against the Commonwealth’s registered voter list as a means to eliminate names of deceased persons from the list. [Budget amendment required.]
  • Virginia should adopt a recommendation from the Federal Voting Assistance Program and expand the use of the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot by allowing the envelope to act as the application for the enclosed absentee ballot. [Legislation.]
  • Absentee voter registration and ballot laws should be revised to remove obsolete, confusing, and conflicting provisions. [Legislation.]
  • The secretary of the state board should be granted additional authority to designate alternative methods and procedures for handling absentee ballots in the event of public emergencies. [Legislation.]
  • The Governor should have authority to postpone any primary, any special election, or any general election (except for federal office, Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General or the General Assembly) in the event of an emergency. [Legislation.]
  • A constitutional amendment should be proposed that would enable the General Assembly to provide by law for the postponement of an election that the Constitution currently requires be held on a specific date. [Legislation.]
  • All electoral board members, rather than the secretary only, should have authority to administer the election day oath to officers of election. [Legislation.]
  • Legislation should be adopted to strengthen current law provisions on the prosecution of election law offenses. [Legislation.]
  • The present recount laws should be revised to specify that voter eligibility issues should be raised in a contest rather than a recount, provide for a single recount or redetermination of the vote in a recount proceeding, and spell out recount steps related to differing types of ballots and voting devices. [Legislation.]

Proposals were rejected that would have amended (i) the FOIA provisions to exempt certain electoral board activities and (ii) the Constitution to allow voter registration for United States citizens living abroad who have never lived in the United States and who have a parent or guardian who is a qualified voter of Virginia.

Task Force #1 Report

Senator Miller reviewed the recommendations and legislation offered by his task force. The joint subcommittee agreed to the following recommendations:

  • Virginia should continue utilizing a variety of voting systems on a local-option basis. [No legislation required.]
  • The state should contribute to the costs of providing election equipment that will assure accessibility to the polls for all voters. Funds should be made available, through a grant program that takes into account the fiscal capability of the locality, to assist localities in acquiring an accessible voting device for each precinct. [Budget amendment required.]
  • The Commonwealth should fund a full-time employee on the staff of the State Board of Elections with responsibility for the oversight of the process for certifying voting equipment, monitoring developments in voting technologies, and administering the distribution of grants to localities. [Budget amendment required.]
  • The present state law that provides for training officers of election should be amended to increase the times allowed for training the officers who serve as officers in positions other than as the chief or assistant chief officer. [Legislation.]
  • The merger of the polling book and precinct registered voting list should be implemented on a statewide basis beginning in 2003. [Legislation.]

Pending Federal Legislation

The subcommittee adopted a resolution that the chairman will forward to Virginia’s congressional delegation and appropriate authorities. The resolution memorializes the Congress to enact election reform legislation that adequately funds any mandate imposed on states and localities and requires the Social Security Administration and the Immigration and Naturalization Service to share information on deceased persons and alien residents within states without charge to assist them in maintaining accurate voter registration lists.

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


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