The SBE will likely adopt a proposed change to voter registration forms that removes the constitutional requirement that the applicant indicate he/she is a U.S. citizen.
As we’ve previously highlighted with respect to the Department of Elections, what was once a non-partisan organization with a fair, middle-of-the-road approach acceptable to all sides is now little more than a thinly disguised partisan agent of the Governor, that purges those not on board with the program. Some additional background:
1. The new Commissioner of the Department of Elections is named Edgardo Cortes. Cortes was the General Registrar of Fairfax County during the time that the Fairfax Democrats began to systematically push the envelope to ease restrictions on voting, particularly on provisional ballots. He’s also the guy who terminated the whistleblower in the last Department of Elections scandal (scroll down to the 9:30 AM post here for more).
2. Liz Howard is the Deputy Commissioner. According to her bio on EmergeVA.org (“Emerge Virginia is the premier training program for Democratic women”), Howard is the former CFO for the Tennessee Democratic Party and past General Counsel of the not-non-partisan Rock the Vote. Howard is in charge of briefing the State Board on the rules changes.
3. Kristina Stoney is Senior Assistant Attorney General and Counsel to the State Board of Elections and the Department of Elections. She is also the former “Protect the Vote” coordinator for the Democratic Party of Virginia, and is the wife of Levar “Slasher” Stoney, who was deputy campaign manager for Terry McAuliffe and is McAuliffe’s Secretary of State.
So yeah, it’s McAuliffe’s organization.
At issue are proposed changes to the voter registration form, which currently requires an applicant to affirmatively indicate (by checking designated boxes on the form) that they are U.S. citizens, have not been adjudicated to be mentally incapacitated, and are not convicted felons whose voting rights have not been restored. Under current regulations, failure to check these boxes constitutes a material omission, requiring the application to be rejected.
Ostensibly because they believe this to be too much of a barrier to participation, McAuliffe’s appointees have proposed new regulations pursuant to which “a voter registration application may not be denied for failure to include” the checked boxes (emphasis mine). Instead, the new form would simply have an affirmation in the fine print at the bottom indicating that by signing, the applicant affirms eligibility to vote. The Board heard public comment on the issue at its meeting this morning in Richmond, and will likely vote on the matter at its next meeting on September 1. Public comment on the proposed regulatory change closes on August 3.
Democrats claim this is merely to streamline the process and that the required affirmation provides just as much protection against voter fraud as the current form.
This is wrong, and laughably so. Here’s how OFA, SEIU, and whatever other successor organizations of ACORN will use this:
ORGANIZER: “Hi, Maria. We’d like for you to register to vote so that together we can fight back against the malvados republicanos norteamericanos.”
MARIA FROM EL SALVADOR: “Yo no soy un ciudadano de los Estados Unidos. No puedo marcar esa casilla.”
ORGANIZER: “That’s OK, Maria, you’re not required to check that box. Just sign here, por favor.”
If you think that level of suspicion isn’t warranted, ask yourself why simply requiring a box to be checked is such a huge burden. We spoke with Sen. Tom Garrett (R-Buckingham), who has been out in front on this issue for weeks, and who testified vociferously at the State Board meeting this morning. He neatly encapsulates the absurdity of the Democrats’ claim that this is an unreasonable burden on voting:
“If checking boxes to indicate that you’re an American citizen, haven’t been adjudicated mentally incapacitated, and aren’t a convicted felon is too hard to do to exercise a constitutional right, why don’t we just take those things off applications to purchase a firearm, too?” Sen. Tom Garrett
Whether you think the new rules are harmless, or if you think (as I do) that they’re purposefully designed to facilitate voting by those otherwise ineligible, our opinion is irrelevant. Why? Because the State Board of Elections would be clearly overstepping their authority under the Virginia Constitution and the relevant statute if they decide to adopt this blatantly partisan rules change.
The Constitution of Virginia requires a voter to affirmatively indicate U.S. citizenship. Article II, Section 2:
Applications to register shall require the applicant to provide the following information on a standard form: full name; date of birth; residence address; social security number, if any; whether the applicant is presently a United States citizen; and such additional information as may be required by law. All applications to register shall be completed by or at the direction of the applicant and signed by the applicant, unless physically disabled.
The applicant must provide this information, it cannot be supplied by someone else and just signed, and it cannot be skipped. It’s an affirmative constitutional requirement. Further, the statute implementing this requirement is explicit that the form cannot be pre-populated, thus reinforcing the obligation of the applicant to affirmatively indicate citizenship, among other things. Virginia Code Section 24.2-418 reads, in relevant part:
The form of the application to register shall require the applicant to provide the following information: full name; gender; date of birth; social security number, if any; whether the applicant is presently a United States citizen; address of residence in the precinct; place of last previous registration to vote; and whether the applicant has ever been adjudicated incapacitated or convicted of a felony, and if so, under what circumstances the applicant’s right to vote has been restored. The form shall contain a statement that whoever votes more than once in any election in the same or different jurisdictions shall be guilty of a Class 6 felony. Unless directed by the applicant or as permitted in § 24.2-411.1 or 24.2-411.2, the registration application shall not be pre-populated with information the applicant is required to provide.
Elections have consequences. This is what happens when you elect a guy like Terry McAuliffe, for whom politics is apparently the art of getting around or ignoring the rules. This is why the vast majority of those persons submitting public comments about the proposed rules have opposed them. (The most entertaining comment, though, comes from DPVA; they naturally support the changes, but ask for an additional change to be made to allow gender to be a fill-in-the-blank answer instead of a checkbox).
We may not have the ability to stop this with the Democrat-dominated Board. But if you want to give Republican Board Member Clara Belle Wheeler some support, you can contribute to the public comments on this proposed change by clicking here. You can also appear to speak your mind at the Board’s next meeting on September 1, at 2:00 PM (location TBD).
Kudos to Sen. Garrett and to Del. Tim Hugo, among a number of members of the House of Delegates, for leading on this. We’ll keep you updated as this issue unfolds.