Senator Jen Kiggans’ (R-Virginia Beach) election reform bill passed the Senate with broad bipartisan support 34 to five. But when the bill was sent to the House of Delegates, the Privileges and Elections Committee voted to table the bill, effectively killing it. Kiggans’ bill SB 1422 would have required the State Registrar of Vital Records to provide a weekly list of deceased people to the Department of Elections, a process that currently is required to happen monthly.
“What is in the code now is for the Department of Vital Records to report to the registrar, the Department of Elections, on a monthly basis with a list of people who have deceased,” Kiggans told The Virginia Star. “And then, the Department of Elections verifies that they have died. This is verified with social security numbers, looking for obituaries, looking for death certificates, they have their own process to make sure, yes this person is deceased, and then they’re removed from the voter roll.”
Kiggans said they consulted with the Department of Vital Records and the Department of Elections to see if the bill would be helpful and make sure it didn’t burden the departments. She said that they found that the process was only happening every few months, and that requiring weekly updates would make it easier because the weekly lists would be smaller.
In the Privileges and Elections Committee, City of Norfolk Registrar Stephanie Iles spoke in favor of Kiggans’ bill.
Iles said, “This will allow us to receive vital information in a more timely manner from the state through the Department of Elections. Right now, we’re getting this information quarterly at best, and anything we can do to improve our voter registration rolls and protect the integrity of the elections we do support.”
Kiggans bill was similar to HB 1758, introduced by Delegate Ronnie Campbell (R-Lexington), which was killed in a Privileges and Elections subcommittee in January.
Other elections bills from both parties were also killed. For example, HB 1746, introduce by Delegate Mark Cole (R-Stafford), would have required a live video feed of vote counting. Minority Leader Todd Gilbert’s (R-Shenandoah) HB 2209 would have required signatures on absentee ballots to match the voter’s signature on their application.
The Privileges and Elections Committee also killed Delegate Lee Carter’s (D-Manasses) HB 1906, which would have banned corporations from giving money to candidates and other political groups. The committee also killed Delegate Ibraheem Samirah’s (D-Fairfax) HB 1756, which would have banned utilities from giving money to candidates and other political groups.
However, the General Assembly did pass Delegate David Bulova’s (D-Fairfax) HJ 526 to study campaign finance reform.
Kiggans said reforms passed in the Democrat-led General Assembly in the past two years added burdens to registrars and elections officials.
“We passed a lot of election reform bills between last year and this year,” Kiggans said. “When we’ve had these conversations with the Department of Elections, they’ve let us know, their quote was ‘We’re not superheroes.'”
“We ask a lot of them, and I don’t know if we always think through that process between this year with the drop boxes and early voting, and we had the stamps on the absentee ballots,” she said.
Kiggans said, “The goal now is how are we going to restore faith in elections, faith in the electoral process, and voter confidence so that people continue to vote. I know I’ve heard more than once, from more than one constituent, ‘Well, I’m never going to vote again. I’ve lost all faith in the system.’ And that’s not right, that’s not the direction we need to be going.”
Kiggans said one way to restore voter confidence is through bipartisan elections reform. She said, “When you have only one party proposing election reform, it makes the other party suspect.”
“I applaud the statewide candidates that make that a focus of their campaign,” Kiggans said.
She said that Republicans need to make gains and win some seats in the legislature or win one of the top statewide seats.
“It’s going to be a work in progress to have candidates’ stars align if we want to make any changes from the Republican side, I’ll say that,” Kiggans said. “But we’ll see how it pans out in November.”
“You want good bipartisan legislation that both parties support,” she said. “So that’s the goal. Let’s see if we can’t work together. Right now, it’s strangely not bipartisan.”
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