Senator Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield), Delegate Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights), and Glenn Youngkin released a letter Wednesday criticizing a vote-counting plan to tally votes in the Republican Party of Virginia’s (RPV) nominating convention. The convention will use ranked-choice voting, which makes vote counting complicated and time-consuming. An RPV committee has recommended that the RPV use an Excel-based system called the ‘Burkhardt Method.’ But the three candidates say the method is unproven, and may have security concerns.
“The current method for counting, tabulating, and calculating the votes being recommended by the Rules Committee utilizes untested and unproven software that creates uncertainty, lacks openness and transparency, and is inconsistent with our calls as a party for safe and secure elections,” the letter states. “The software solution currently being recommended is unproven, and there is still a significant amount of confusion over how it works, whether it is secure, and whether it can handle the scale of the expected turnout on May 8.”
The letter calls for ballot chain of custody integrity, vote counting integrity, and independent experts and vendors.
After the letter was released, Pete Snyder’s campaign said in a statement, “We love this! As we have from the beginning, we support a verifiable, independent, and accurate count that gives Republicans confidence in this process and the results. We have always advocated for the measures outlined in the letter.”
The Burkhardt method uses Excel spreadsheets where ballots are assigned an individual, randomized number, and then recorded by separate RPV volunteers on separate computers, with additional volunteers watching for mistakes. That allows more quickly counting the ranked-choice votes, a system where losing candidates are eliminated in rounds and their votes are assigned based on delegates’ alternate preferences. Hand-counting the ballots requires volunteers to recount the ballots in each round, a process that can be lengthy, especially in more populous parts of Virginia with more delegates, according to SCC Member Willie Deutsch.
“The Republican Party—the party of election integrity—must lead by example as it prepares to conduct its May 8 nominating convention. Unfortunately, the method currently being considered by the State Central Committee to count the ballots, tabulate the delegate votes, and calculate the final weighted results of our convention does not meet this standard,” Chase, Cox, and Youngkin said in a press release.
Deutsch, who has endorsed Snyder, said that the Burkhardt method will allow volunteers in different regions to turn in their spreadsheets as soon as they are done, without waiting for results in areas that take longer to count. Deutsch thinks the Burkhardt method already meets the three criteria called for in the letter, and he said that the method was used in the 11th congressional district last year. If there are any questions about a ballot, the randomized number will allow staff to go back and confirm the votes. The candidates have all had the chance to review the method and propose changes or corrections, but they only proposed minor tweaks, according to Deutsch.
“This method also lacks openness and transparency. Utilizing software takes away oversight from campaign observers and hides the very important process of counting the ballots and tabulating the final weighted results. We cannot substitute expediency for an open and transparent process that provides confidence in the outcome,” Chase, Cox, and Youngkin said in their letter.
The letter from Chase, Cox, and Youngkin follows on the heels of Chase’s repeated claims of cheating through ties between the Snyder campaign and the RPV. The Virginia Star asked the three campaigns why Snyder wasn’t one of the signers of the letter.
“The three of them are as stated in the letter, wanting paper ballots counted not electronic systems,” Chase spokesperson Shayne Snavely said. “Chase believes Snyder would be the one benefiting by any manipulation of the electronic system if it occurs.”
A Youngkin spokesperson said, “For weeks, Pete Snyder’s team has been pushing the proposed Burkhardt counting method that Cox, Chase, and Youngkin agree is unacceptable. That’s why Snyder won’t say he opposes the Burkhardt method.”
Cox’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment, and Snyder’s campaign declined to comment further. Deutsch, a Snyder supporter, said that it’s a political tactic since Snyder is the perceived front-runner.
“If you want to go beat Pete Snyder, you try to attack the process and you try to also signal to your supporters that, ‘Well, the three of us are working together, so vote for one of the three of us as your second choice,'” Deutsch said. “‘The three of us are working together, the three of us are the three campaigns that quote unquote care about voter integrity, we’re going to fight for it.’ It’s a messaging ploy.”
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