Op/Ed by Del. Tim Hugo (R-Fairfax)
Last Thursday, a joint meeting of the House and Senate Privileges and Elections Committees convened to hear concerns regarding the Virginia electoral process directed by the State Board of Elections (SBE) and the Department of Elections (DOE).
The current Commissioner of Elections, Edgardo Cortes, attempted to defend the efforts of the DOE and the SBE.
Yet, what the House and Senate Committees heard was appalling.
The SBE/DOE sent voter registration information, with return postage paid, to felons who had completed their sentences BUT TO NO ONE ELSE, NOT to any other Virginians. Why was this one group of Virginians selected for special treatment?
Registrars from across Virginia expressed concerns regarding the Virginia Election and Registration Information System (VERIS). Cortes repeatedly downplayed these bipartisan concerns. Yet, on Monday, October 17, the last day to register to vote in Virginia, the VERIS system was down. Virginians could not check their registration status, could not register to vote, and, applying for an absentee ballot was also interrupted.
One voter wrote to me that they had already voted absentee but when they checked their status, it said “record not found.” Another voter told me that they looked up their voter registration information only to have VERIS tell them that the system was down AND when they were able to look up their name, it also told them “NO RECORD FOUND.”
Wouldn’t that make you worried about whether you were registered or not? This voter called their local registrar’s office and it took that office 6 minutes to access the system.
The committee heard about regulations (proposed by Cortes’ office) whose legality were questioned by many. These proposed regulations were (1) initially met with great resistance from registrars in an announced public hearing, (2) subsequently pulled when the public outcry became too loud, and (3) later shamefully snuck through with minimal notice to the lament of the many faithful registrars that must now implement these flawed guidelines.
We heard about the situation at JMU where deceased people were being registered to vote and in Sussex County where deceased people were actually recorded as voting.
And, possibly worst of all, the General Registrar of Fairfax County, testified that the voting regulations coming from Richmond did not comply with the law as passed by the General Assembly and signed by the Governor.
At that point in the hearing, I called for the Governor to fire Commissioner of Elections Edgardo Cortes. He is incompetent and partisan.
If Virginians do not have faith in the competence, accuracy, and fairness of the election process, it is a threat to our democracy. Democrats will say that Republicans stole every election, and, Republicans will say that Democrats stole every election. It will be a sad spiral downward.
For the good of all current and future candidates, Democrats and Republicans, winners and losers, to preserve the citizens’ faith in the electoral process in Virginia, Governor McAuliffe needs to replace the current Commissioner of Elections with a competent and non-partisan leader. If not, Governor McAuliffe will join Edgardo Cortes in failing Virginia’s voters.