The House P&E subcommittee on Elections meets Friday morning at 7am. On the schedule are a number of bills that I have been following, including bipartisan redistricting, verifiable voting, absentee ballots and recount procedures. These bills have already passed the Senate. It is critical that we contact the members of this committee and ask for them to support these bills.
The members of the committee are Chairman Chris Jones, Robert Bell, Bob Brink, Rosalyn Dance, John O’Bannon, and Terrie Suit. (Click on their names to email them.) These bills deserve to be heard by the full House and not killed in a subcommittee on an unrecorded voice vote.
Should the bills make it out of the subcommittee, there is a possibility that some or all of them could be heard by the full committee at its 9am meeting. This will be another opportunity for the bills to be killed so by all means, contact the members of the committee.
If you are able, please attend the subcommittee and full committee meetings Friday morning. The media has been alerted to what is going on. Hopefully, they will show up tomorrow as well.
The media advisory is below the fold.
Critical redistricting, election bills to be taken up in House subcommittee
Press attendance needed to ensure accountability
WHO The Elections subcommittee of the House Privileges and Elections Committee: Chris Jones (Chairman), Bob Brink, Rosalyn Dance, John O’Bannon, and Terrie Suit. Also present will be Senate and House patrons of the bills and members of citizens’ advocacy groups including the Verifiable Voting Coalition of Virginia.
WHAT The subcommittee meets to consider bills recently passed by the Senate on bipartisan redistricting, recounts of close elections, audits of election machines, and absentee voting, among others. This subcommittee has killed similar bills in past years on unrecorded voice votes, preventing these popular bills from reaching the House floor.
WHERE Room 4th floor West, General Assembly Building, Richmond, Virginia
WHEN Friday, February 15, 7 a.m.
The most important election-related bills of this legislative session are scheduled to be heard by the House Privileges and Elections Subcommittee at their early-morning meeting tomorrow. These bills have all passed the Senate by wide margins but face an uphill battle in the House. The subcommittee has the power to kill a bill by an unrecorded voice vote, preventing it from being heard in either the full committee (meeting at 9 a.m. tomorrow) or by the whole House. This has happened in past years with bills similar to these, at meetings without members of the press present.
Bills to be considered include:
SB 38 (Deeds), a bill to end the current gerrymandering legislative districts by having district lines drawn by a bipartisan commission with the specific intent of increasing competition as well as making districts compact and keeping communities together. The current system provides “safe” seats for many legislators but makes it difficult for challengers and deprives many voters of a voice.
SB 35 (Deeds) requires that when an election is so close that a recount is required, any paper ballots used in the election will be rerun through the optical scan tabulators, following a second round of logic and accuracy tests. Present law in practice prevents a meaningful recount. It provides that the original tabulator printout is to be used in a recount unless it can’t be read or a court orders the ballots to be rerun-something courts have been reluctant to order. Although this bill does not affect votes cast on DREs, which cannot be recounted, and does not provide for audits of machines, it does do in optical scan voting what voters consider the minimum necessary in a recount: that is, to count the votes again.SB 292 (Herring) authorizes pilot programs to audit optical scan tabulators in localities that choose to participate. In 2007 the legislature banned new purchases of paperless touchscreen machines, in response to serious security and reliability concerns. Jurisdictions that use them are expected to transition to paper ballots and optical scanners over the next several years. The use of paper ballots provides a “paper trail” that election officials could use to ensure the accuracy of the tabulating machines’ totals and give the voters of Virginia confidence their votes are accurately recorded. SB 292 is a necessary first step towards random post-election audits of machines to ensure the security and accuracy of the vote.
SB 69 (Howell) provides that qualified voters may vote absentee in person without providing an excuse or reason for not being able to vote in person on election day. This will allow elderly voters, voters with unsettled travel plans, and those with unpredictable commutes or work hours to vote absentee in person. It reflects the changing work environment in Virginia and the difficulties commuters face in working many miles away from their homes and polling places. It would allow people to vote absentee in anticipation of bad weather, and would greatly reduce the lines at the polls on election day.
About the Verifiable Voting Coalition of Virginia:
the Verifiable Voting Coalition of Virginia champions reliable and publicly-verifiable elections. Members include Virginia Verified Voting, the New Electoral Reform Alliance for Virginia (New Era), the Virginia Libertarian Party, the League of Women Voters of Virginia, Common Cause, the Southern Coalition for Secured Voting, and the Virginia Organizing Project.