Virginia voting is at risk. A report from a General Assembly oversight committee casts serious doubt on the competence and equity of state officials who oversee the most important function in a democracy. According to the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC), the Virginia Department of Elections was open to helping Democrats during the administration of former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat.
Jamie Bitz, a JLARC analyst, described “a perception of political bias that was reflected in decisions about certain policies and certain agency operations.” He told The Times-Dispatch that former agency leaders helped Democratic groups skirt campaign finance laws and rules. “We heard of one example where the previous deputy commissioner at the agency very openly stated to a number of people, including to one high-level elections official in Virginia, that one of her key responsibilities was to help Hillary Clinton be elected president,” Bitz said. This is corruption, pure and simple.
Free and fair elections are essential for a working democracy. Even the federal government has managed to cobble together a process for overseeing election laws that is reasonably nonpartisan. Virginia’s failure to do so is a betrayal of its citizens and its founding principles.
JLARC’s other findings are also disturbing. The state’s voter registration lists are “likely mostly accurate.” That’s not good enough. Its voter registration IT system is “not sufficiently functional or reliable.” Why not? And the Department of Elections’ “oversight does not provide full assurance of election integrity and uniformity.”
The integrity of elections, which is essential to the legitimacy of government, is dependent on the integrity and competence of officials who manage the elections. Virginia faces a crisis. Gov. Ralph Northam and House Speaker Kirk Cox should work together to resolve it now. It is disturbing that the commonwealth appears incapable of fairly and effectively handling one of its most basic responsibilities.