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Virginia ACLU Urges Registrars to Allow Students to Register to Vote in Local Elections PDF  | Print |  Email
By Virginia ACLU   
September 09, 2008
College Newspapers Asked to Get Word out That ACLU Can Help

The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia this morning is faxing letters to 32 local registrars urging them to allow students to register to vote where they attend school. The registrars were selected because they oversee voter registrations in areas where college students are likely to live.

The ACLU’s letter follows a recently reported incident in Montgomery County where the registrar told college students that their parents may no longer be able to claim them as dependents for tax purposes if they declare a separate college address for voting purposes.

The ACLU has also sent emails to college newspapers today asking them to warn students of the problems they may encounter when attempting to register and to let students know that they may contact the ACLU for assistance.

The issue is not a new one in Virginia or for the ACLU. In 2000, the ACLU criticized the Fredericksburg registrar for refusing to allow students with dormitory addresses to register for local elections. The registrar later agreed not to automatically reject applications from students living on campus. In 2004, the ACLU provided legal representation to several William and Mary students whose applications to register in local elections had been rejected.

Virginia: Review of Chesterfield County's February Presidential Primary Election Process PDF  | Print |  Email
By Virginia Board of Elections   
May 28, 2008
Report Calls for Changes in Chesterfield County’s Processes and Procedures

Download the Full Report

In a report presented to the Virginia State Board of Elections on Friday, May 23, 2008 recommendations were made to improve the process for future elections in Chesterfield County.

As the result of complaints from voters and by the Democratic Party of Virginia regarding the dual presidential primaries held on February 12 in Chesterfield County, a special review team was assigned by the Virginia State Board of Elections to examine the processes and procedures utilized on Election Day. Comprised of three staff members of the State Board of Elections, the review team developed a 39 page report that includes recommendations and a detailed assessment of the events that led to a shortage of ballots in nine precincts, the casting of 299 handwritten ballots on scrap pieces of paper, and long lines that adversely effected voters.

“For Chesterfield County and the State Board of Elections, the findings in this report provide a basis on which we can all build. It’s really about ensuring the integrity of the election process,” said Jean Cunningham, Chairman of the Virginia State Board of Elections. “There were significant problems that occurred on Election Day raising the concern of voter disenfranchisement. Increasing oversight and working more closely with localities to more accurately determine voter turnout, the State Board of Elections is making every effort to prevent this from ever occurring again.”
Senator Introduces Bill for Verified Voting in Virginia PDF  | Print |  Email
By Ivy Main, New Electoral Reform Alliance for Virginia   
January 25, 2008
Last November, voters in Ashland, Virginia went to the polls to choose their county supervisor. Unfortunately, due to the limitations in Virginia’s election laws, we will never know with certainty which candidate the voters actually selected.
The voting machines rejected nineteen paper ballots. The margin between the candidates was only fifteen votes. Nonetheless, the court overseeing the recount declared that officials could not even examine the rejected nineteen ballots. Rather than verifying the accuracy of the election, the recount simply restated the original results.
Now Senator Mark Herring (D-Loudoun, pictured at left) has introduced legislation into the General Assembly that would prevent a replay of the Ashland case. SB 292 would safeguard the integrity of Virginia’s voting systems by requiring meaningful, well-controlled recounts.
The bill directs election officials to compare the electronic counts of a sample set of machines with the results of hand counts of paper ballots. This ensures that the machines were properly programmed and calibrated, rather than simply assuming no errors occurred.
Secondly, the bill provides a clear rule specifying that uncounted ballots must be examined in those cases where the machine- rejected ballots could change the election outcome (as in the Ashland election). In the absence of such a rule from the General Assembly, courts have been reluctant to use their discretion to allow those ballots to be examined.
Finally, the bill would also give election officials a means to investigate tabulating machines they have reason to believe may have malfunctioned on election day, an option not available under current law.
 “It is critically important in a democracy that voters have confidence in the outcome of an election,” said Senator Herring. “They need to know their votes have been counted correctly. In a tight race, even a small computer error could lead to a false outcome—and you won’t know it if no one’s checking. That’s not fair to the candidates, and it’s not fair to the voters.”

Virginia: Election Advocates Urge New Security Measures PDF  | Print |  Email
By Verifiable Voting Coalition of Virginia   
December 21, 2007
The Verifiable Voting Coalition of Virginia (VVCV) will seek new legislation this year to provide meaningful recounts in close elections and to ensure that new paper-based election systems are audited for accuracy.

In hallmark legislation last year, the General Assembly banned further purchases of touchscreen voting machines, known as direct record electronic, or DRE, machines. The machines have been shown to be vulnerable to manipulation and error, and do not permit voters to verify that their choices have been correctly recorded. The decision to phase out DREs puts Virginia in line with a number of other states that have recently decided to abandon DREs in the face of security concerns.

Local Virginia jurisdictions that use DREs are expected to replace them over the next few years with optical scanners that read paper ballots. The scanners tally the votes, and the paper ballots are retained as a “paper trail.” But there are currently no requirements for anyone to examine the paper trail—and that, say VVCV members, is a critical next step.

“Optical scanning is a more secure, less expensive, and voter-verifiable technology,” says Jeremy Epstein, a nationally-recognized expert in election machine security and a co-founder of Virginia Verified Voting, one of the coalition members. “But the point of having a paper trail is to look at the paper. Any machine can make errors, and some can potentially be tampered with. So until you actually have a system in place to audit a small, randomly-selected set of machines by comparing the machine tallies with the paper ballots, voters still can’t have confidence in the integrity of the vote count.”
Virginia: How Close is Close Enough? PDF  | Print |  Email
By Jeremy Epstein   
November 16, 2007

This article was posted at Jeremy Epstein's Blog and is reposted here with permission of the author.


Last week's elections left (at least) two very close elections in Virginia, based on the unofficial counts. In Spotsylvania County, the Clerk of the Court race, the two leading contenders are separated by 63 votes, with 7,420 (38.46%) for Christy Jett vs. 7,357 (38.13%) for Paul Metzger out of a total of 19,295 votes cast. (Full details here.) In Fairfax County, out of 37,185 votes cast for the 37th State Senate seat, Ken Cuccinelli has 18,602 votes (50.02%) for a lead of 92 votes over Janet Oleszek (18,510 votes or 49.77%). (Full details here; Oleszek has announced she's seeking a recount.

What does this mean? Both Spotsylvania and Fairfax counties use paperless Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting systems, meaning that the only record of the votes is what's in memory cards on the voting machines. As has been amply demonstrated, there's lots of ways that these can be wrong, whether by accident or malicious intent.

Virginia Bans New DREs in First Step Toward Verifiable Voting PDF  | Print |  Email
By Ivy Main, New ERA for Virginia   
April 15, 2007
Last week Virginia Governor Tim Kaine signed legislation prohibiting local governments from buying new direct record electronic (DRE) election machines starting July 1, 2007.

After that date, localities needing new election machines as their populations grow or their DREs break down are expected to turn to optical scanning machines that read paper ballots. Legislators hope this the gradual phase-in of the new system will ease the financial strain of purchasing new machines, while moving the state in the direction of verifiable voting.

The state’s current DREs do not produce a paper record of individual votes that permits voters to verify that their votes have been properly recorded, and that can be preserved for auditing the machines or recounting close elections. By contrast, precinct-based optical scanners allow voters to verify their votes, and the paper ballots can be preserved as a “paper trail” for audits and recounts.
Election Security in Virginia One Step Closer PDF  | Print |  Email
By Joseph Waymack, Executive Director, Southern Coalition for Secured Voting   
January 30, 2007

State Senate Passes Bill That Would Prohibit Future Purchase of DREs 


The citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia have spoken load and clear in their support for verified elections and the Virginia State Senate has listened. With an overwhelming vote of 36 in favor and only 4 in decent the Virginia State Senate has approved Senate Bill 840 introduced by Sen. Devolites-Davis. Now that 90% of the Senate has backed this important legislation it is up to House of Delegates to follow suit.

Senate Bill 840 provides necessary protections of our election system which are currently vulnerable to inaccuracy, malfunction, and fraud. The bill bans the use of wireless communication devices inside voting machines during election day. Wireless communication is used by the largest vendor of voting machines in Virginia and, according to computer security experts, represents a grave threat by rogue hackers or terrorists through disrupting our voting system.

Virginia Takes Up Paper Ballot Legislation in 2007 Session PDF  | Print |  Email
By Ivy Main, New Electoral Reform Alliance for Virginia   
January 12, 2007
In the new session, Virginia’s legislature will debate bills requiring all jurisdictions in the state use paper ballot voting systems.
Delegate Tim Hugo and Senator Jeannemarie Devolites Davis, both Republicans from Fairfax County, have introduced identical bills in the House and Senate (HB 2707 and SB 840) that would require all jurisdictions in Virginia (with the exception of a few very small localities) to use paper ballots read by optical scan machines. Localities would also purchase ballot-marking devices for use by persons with disabilities. The legislation also contains a ban on wireless communication devices, provisions for post-election random audits of election machines, and procedures for the review of at least some paper ballots in the case of a recount.
Enthusiasm for the bill has spread beyond the election integrity groups that lobbied for last year’s bill. This year a number of citizen’s groups, advocates and political parties formed the Verifiable Voting Coalition of Virginia, whose members include Virginia Verified Voting, the New Electoral Reform Alliance for Virginia (New Era for VA), the League of Women Voters, Common Cause, the Virginia Libertarian Party, the Virginia Organizing Project, and the Southern Coalition for Verified Voting.
Who’s Afraid of Virginia’s Voting Machines? PDF  | Print |  Email
By Matt Zimmerman, Electronic Frontier Foundation   
November 19, 2006

This article was posted at Electronic Frontier Foundation's Deep Links Blog. It is reposted here with permission of the author. 


Down over 7,000 votes to Democratic challenger Jim Webb, Virginia Senator George Allen conceded three days after the election. "It is with deep respect for the people of Virginia," Allen said, "that I do not wish to cause more rancor by protracted litigation which would in my judgment not alter the results."


With all due respect to Sen. Allen, how could he know for sure?


The long history of problems with electronic voting systems should have given him at least slight pause, especially in light of last week's documented incidents of Hart Intercivic voting machines apparently truncating the names of several candidates on the summary page, including the name of his opponent, now-Senator-elect Jim Webb. Or reports from election day that ES&S iVotronic machines in Sarasota, Florida, recorded over 10,000 fewer votes for a Congressional race than for other high-profile races.

A Worst Case Scenario for a Midterm Election? PDF  | Print |  Email
By Avi Rubin, Johns Hopkins University   
November 08, 2006

This article appeared on Avi Rubin's Blog. It is reposted with permission of the author.


In several recent elections, the eyes of the country fell on one particular jurisdiction that came under the microscope and affected the entire nation. In 2000, it was Florida and hanging chads. In 2004 it was Ohio and long lines, and in 2006 it is shaping up to be Virginia and a single race that will determine which party controls the senate. Every article I have read today states that the race is going to come down to a recount.

Uh oh.

Virginia uses a plethora of different voting technologies. Just about every major vendor is represented. Most of votes in that state were cast on paperless DREs. There are no ballots to recount. A meaningful recount in Virginia is not possible.

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