Virginia Republicans Are Striving to Ensure Virginia Elections Work

The Virginian-Pilot published a strongly worded article claiming that "Virginia elections don't work." The article bemoans multiple hour waits to cast a ballot and low voter turnout. The article then turns its attention to voter ID which it says is "part of a larger national effort by Republicans to specifically discourage groups that tend to vote for Democrats," and slows things down even more. Confusion about voter ID rules, problems with absentee ballots, and faulty voting machines marred the November election according to the article. Apparently, even Gov. McAuliffe had his vote momentarily delayed by a worker who mistakenly questioned the governor's address.

In response to this rather glum report on the state of affairs in Virginia, Don Palmer, a former member of the Virginia board of elections, painted a brighter picture. Palmer points out:

"It is easier and more convenient to register to vote. Due to registration data-sharing with other states and cleaner voter rolls, Virginia’s voter registration data is more accurate and less likely to cause unnecessary lines in our polling places. Virginians can register to vote online and instantaneously submit their information directly to state and local election officials."

With regard to voter ID, Palmer  explains that "[t]he photo ID legislation has been implemented with few hiccups. Not a single voter has been turned away. If necessary, voters are told how to obtain a free ID. Showing a photo ID to an election official takes only a few seconds out of the time it takes to vote and allows an elections officer to confirm every voter’s identity," and "[t]o increase public awareness, the Virginia Department of Elections will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on photo ID training and voter education outreach this presidential election year."

Finally, Palmer cites efforts by the state legislature to solve the problem with lines at the poll: To address the lines that occasionally occur at some precincts, the General Assembly passed bills (HB2062 and SB1062) requiring five poll workers and two voting tabulators in polling places with more than 4,000 registered voters. An exception to the new law allows local governing bodies to vote to opt out based on proven, historic low turnout or low waiting times in precincts. The bill was signed into law by Gov. Terry McAuliffe. It went into effect on July 1. Many of the state’s localities that have had long lines of voters have modernized their voting equipment. The cities of Richmond and Virginia Beach and the counties of Arlington, Fairfax and Prince William, among others, have purchased new voting equipment, which will be ready for voters in 2016."