Read the Bills Act Coalition

Monday, October 27, 2008

Is State Board of Elections Non-Partisan Any Longer? Part 1

For years, Virginia has enjoyed a well-deserved reputation of having fair and clean elections. Virginians have had confidence in our electoral process because (with a few exceptions) our process is non-partisan, balanced and open.

Over the last few months, however, actions by State Board of Elections and the Kaine administration have started us down a different road, one on which policy decisions are made not on the basis of what's right, but on the basis of partisan politics.

Documents recently obtained through a FOIA request made to the State Board of Elections (SBE) are disturbing in their revelation of the involvement by both the Governor's Chief of Staff and an attorney representing the Obama campaign in a policy shift regarding student voter registration.

The underlying policy change has moved the determination of whether an individual, who is applying for voter registration, is qualified – at least insofar as whether they are a resident or not – from the General Registrar of each locality to the student. This policy change is euphemistically described by the SBE as a "clarification".

Lest the argument be made that no real change has taken place, we need look no further than the SBE's form letter response to inquiries about this subject in late September:

"We recently updated this information to make clear that it is the student who is in control of the determination."

Notice that last sentence again. It is no longer the Registrar who makes the determination of whether a student is actually a resident of Virginia. It is the student him/herself who is in control of making that determination. If that's just a clarification and not a major policy change, it's news to most Registrars.

So, back to the subject at hand. What happened that brought all of this about?

The next post in this series will walk you through what has been going on behind the scenes the last few months. It's not pretty and not at all what we have come to expect in the Commonwealth.

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