Time to Talk about the Growing Rift Between Virginia Registrars and Terry McAuliffe

So the registrar that runs Virginia’s largest locality — 1/8th of the Commonwealth — expresses outrage that the Virginia Department of Elections (the former State Board of Elections) have dragged their feet in processing absentee registrations going back to August.

Do you:

(a)  Calmly and professionally explain the situation?
(b)  Politely ignore the comment?
(c)  Arbitrarily ban them from the listserv for a period of… oh I dunno, whatever it is between now and the election.

If you guessed (c), we would like to thank Elections Commissioner Edgardo Cortes for taking this poll… per the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

Cortés said past listserv suspensions have lasted two to three weeks, but Sasnett’s may be shortened with a presidential election about two weeks away. Policing of the listserv, Cortés said, is purely about maintaining professionalism, not about tamping down criticism.

Anyone else wanna call nonsense on that?  How’s about a few dozen state registrars:

In subsequent emails, other registrars came to Sasnett’s defense.

Stafford County Registrar Greg S. Middleroser urged the head of the state registrar association to “throw the BS Flag.”

“FIX this NOW, please… and demand an apology – this is so sophomoric – I can’t stand it,” Riddlemoser wrote.

Radford County Registrar Tracy D. Howard, president of the Voter Registrars Association of Virginia, said she had already voiced frustration with “being the de facto list referee.”

“I have requested that the powers that be try to understand the stress and frustration that we are ALL working with, and that cutting off a GR’s ability to communicate effectively is not conducive to a successful election,” Howard wrote.

Albemarle County Registrar Jake Washburne noted that, over the concerns of some registrars the elections department supporting allowing cameras and “ballot selfies” in polling places as a matter of free speech.

“It is difficult to reconcile concern over gagging voters’ free speech rights when it comes to ‘selfies,’ with restraining a registrar’s means of communication with the elections community regarding concerns over Veris’s performance over the past few weeks.” Washburne wrote.

Here’s the problem: The Virginia elections database is in an utter shambles, and it is going to have an impact on Election Day.  So bad is this problem… that provisional ballots are being worked out on a scale and number that is perhaps unprecedented in the modern era.

Now one could say that this is just pure sloppiness on the part of a handful in Richmond.  One could even say that perhaps such sloppiness is merely an instance of putting the wrong people in the wrong place, or worse, getting rid of the right people at the wrong time.  One might also venture to say — and this is pure speculation, ladies and gentlemen, that in the swing state of Virginia such a problem would be slightly advantageous to… oh, I dunno… those who want to see a bevy of previously undocumented voters come to the polls for the first time in a long time.

Wonder which party that works out for?

Convenient problem to have, wouldn’t you say?  In an environment where an unprecedented absentee voter program has produced unprecedented results for Democrats in Northern Virginia and elsewhere… one might say that, should these wires touch, Governor McAuliffe would have a lot to answer for — would he not?

…all speculation, unless one has say, a massive pile of provisional ballots anticipating the goof.


UPDATE:  The RTD’s Graham Moomaw seems to have gotten results:

…because that’s going to make this story go away?

UPDATE x2:  Word is making its way to Bearing Drift that Fairfax registrar Cameron Sasnett spoke rather poorly of the Department of Elections during a six-hour marathon session of Senate P&E Committee.

Tit for tat, anyone?  Worth considering…

  • Dean

    Del. Hugo asked for the Commissioner Cortes to be fired on October 13 — http://www.richmond.com/news/virginia/article_159c3b7e-5d58-5aa5-a398-f28d8f455fec.html

  • notjohnsmosby

    Maybe Cameron shouldn’t cuss his replies in the public listserv? He is a public official, and the listserv isn’t The Bull Elephant.

    • He said “hell” which is about as much of a swear word as “poop” these days.

    • Bob McMahan

      Agreed, but the use of the word “Hell” is pretty mild these days. This strikes me as a sonewhat silly pretext.

    • George

      Heck, it sounds like they were looking for an excuse to suspend him.

  • old_redneck

    VERIS is the state-wide computer system that processes registrations, applications for absentee ballots, election results . . anything having to do with voting and elections.

    Recently the State Board of Elections made it possible for voters to check their registration online, as well as applying for registration and for an absentee ballot.

    Meanwhile, early this year, republicans cut $7.1 million for the State Board of Election budget, a substantial portion of which was earmarked to upgrade VERIS.

    As a result of this budget cut, VERIS has little surge capability. More and more people are checking their registration online. In my small rural county (where I am a member of the electoral board) 10 percent of our registered voters have gone online to update their registrations, although there was nothing to update.

    As election day approaches, more and more people are going online to check their registration and request an absentee ballot. VERIS is slowing down to the point that there were over 20,000 pending registration applications on October 17, the deadline to register. That’s why a court ordered registration to be extended until midnight last Friday.

    The Fairfax registrar was complaining because some absentee applications that were dropped into his hopper in August only just now showed up for action. Our registrar has experienced similar delays, though not that extreme . . . hers are only a few days delayed.

    Republicans cut the budget for the State Board of Elections as part of a strategy:
    — First, cut the budget so the state agency is crippled
    — Second, the state agency becomes crippled
    — Then, attack the head of the state agency because his crippled agency is overloaded

  • Craig Scott

    Media Amnesia: Hillary Corruption and Her Payoff Machine

    Interesting. Take 6 minutes.

  • old_redneck

    Upon re-reading your article, it’s clear you don’t have a clue as to what you are talking about. Which is not unusual, considering the fact you are a republican.

    No, VERIS is not in a shambles. It works just fine . . . except that it has limited surge capacity, a fact that was made worse when the republicans in the General Assembly cut the State Board of Elections budget by $7.1 million, much of which was to go to improving VERIS.

    The absentee ballot applications in question were submitted in August. Absentee voting did not start until September 23. Thus, absentee ballots for which applications were submitted prior to Sep 23 were not mailed out until after Sep 23, the date absentee voting started. To put it in terms you may be able to understand:
    — By statue, absentee voting started on Sep 23
    — If you submitted an application for an absentee ballot BEFORE Sep 23, that application sat on the registrar’s desk until Sep 23
    — On Sep 23, your ballot and absentee voting package were mailed to you — BECAUSE YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO VOTE UNTIL AFTER SEP 23.

    You really need to understand Virginia election law.

    You then say “. . . that provisional ballots are being worked out on a scale and number that is perhaps unprecedented in the modern era.” Provisional ballots? Do you even know what a provisional is? There are no provisional ballots anywhere. Provisionals are cast during an election and we have not had an election since the March 1 primary. By statute, provisional must be “cleared up” by noon on Friday following the election unless the time is extended, usually due to the number of provisionals cast. Still, there are no provisionals now . . . there will, no doubt, be the usual number AFTER November 8.

    • 1) VERIS is old, slow, and hard to work with. Nobody in Virginia who has ever worked with it will tell you otherwise. It needs to be replaced with a modern database system, not one created a decade ago. When VERIS was designed, Windows XP was still the hottest operating system out there.

      2) Cam’s anger was for AB applications that were weeks late AFTER the September start. Regardless, having applications delivered in a timely fashion ensures they all go out in the mail on September 23, rather than staggering out later.

      3) It’s widely known that ELECT has ordered 1 million provisional ballot envelopes, which is what Shaun was referring to. The idea that we’ll need anything close to that number – it would likely cover the entire Commonwealth for a decades’ worth of elections, honestly – is nuts, but the fact that it’s happened has the conspiracy theorists talking.

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