Republicans are challenging Gov. Terry McAuliffe to sign three election-integrity bills. If McAuliffe follows fellow Democrats who voted against two of the bills at the General Assembly, the governor could whip out his veto pen.
The measures are:
HB 2379 – Requiring crosscheck of voter registrations. The measure by Delegate Rob Bell, R-Albemarle, requires Virginia participate in the Interstate Crosscheck Program. The state is a voluntary member of the 28-state consortium that compares voter rolls to ferret out duplicate or multiple registrations.
HB 1315 – Requiring access to jury excusal forms. The measure by Delegate Mark Cole, R-Spotsylvania, requires jury commissioners retain information obtained from persons not qualified to serve as jurors as a result of not being a citizen of the United States, no longer being a resident of the state or having been convicted of a felony and not having had voting rights restored. The bill requires the sheriff, clerk of court or other official responsible for maintaining such information provided by the commissioners to make that information available upon the request of the general registrar for that locality.
The bill also requires the general registrars to use the information received to identify voters who are no longer qualified to vote and to initiate list maintenance procedures pursuant to current law.
HB 1318 – Requiring photo ID to obtain an absentee ballot. The measure by Delegate Jeffrey Campbell, R-Marion, requires any voter applying for an absentee ballot by mail or telephone or electronic device submit a copy of one of the forms of identification acceptable under law. The bill exempts military personnel, overseas voters and the disabled. Currently, only a voter who completes his application for an absentee ballot in person is required to show a form of identification.
“We know that McAuliffe is plowing the ground for Hillary (Clinton) in 2016. A lot of the stuff (the administration) is doing inflating the voting rolls,” said Reagan George, president of the Virginia Voters Alliance. The vote-watch group supports the measures as tools to remove ineligible individuals from voter-registration lists and reduce the incidence of election fraud.
Watchdog.org reported last year that 308,000 people on Virginia’s voter rolls were also registered to vote in other states. Commissioner of Elections Eduardo Cortez has categorized some of those individuals as “inactive,” but that status still allows them to vote through 2019.
McAuliffe must either sign or veto the vote-reform bills by March 29 or they will become law without his signature. His office did not respond to Watchdog.org’s requests for comment.
The League of Women Voters of Virginia opposes the photo ID bill. LWV President Anne Sterling sent a letter to McAuliffe, asserting, “There is no real purpose to (HB 1318) beyond making it harder to vote.”
The league had “no comment at this time on the other two bills,” legislative coordinator Carol Noggle told Watchdog on Monday.
Christian Adams, counsel for the Virginia-based Election Law Center, predicted McAuliffe will sign all three measures. Bell’s bill passed unanimously and, Adams noted, “The jury bill is an easy way to catch felony voter fraud.”
John Whitbeck, chairman of the state Republican Party, called the bills “commonsense steps toward strengthening the integrity of elections in Virginia.”
“With the string of close statewide elections the past few years, it is imperative we ensure all elections are conducted in a fair and legal manner. Once again, Republicans are leading the way on this issue,” he said.
Kenric Ward is a national correspondent for Watchdog.org and chief of its Virginia Bureau. Contact him at [email protected]