Virginia election threats

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Voter registration

This section details threats to voters from and problems with the state's voter registration system.

Verification, database and rejection

  • A Common Cause examination of voting preparedness rated Virginia's voter registration rejection system as "unsatisfactory," citing, "Registration form must include: full name; gender; date of birth; social security number, if any; whether the applicant is presently a United States citizen; address of residence in the precinct; place of last previous registration to vote; and whether the applicant has ever been adjudicated incapacitated or convicted of a felony, and if so, under what circumstances the applicant’s right to vote has been restored."[1]

Notification and appeal

3rd party registration

NVRA implementation

  • A Common Cause examination of voting preparedness rated Virginia's NVRA implementation as "inconclusive," citing, "State law provides for Motor-Voter and §7 provisions. Surveys had suggested a signifi cant decrease in the enforcement of §7 provisions, but more recently the state has taken successful remedial action."[1]

Student voting rights

  • September 30, 2008. The Washington Post reports that Old Dominion University students are being probed for voting eligibility: "This fall, students at Old Dominion University who registered to vote in their college town received questionnaires from the Norfolk elections board -- probing whether they were claimed as dependents on their parents' income-tax returns, whether they hold out-of-state driver's licenses, and where their cars were registered. A group of students, backed by the Barack Obama campaign and the American Civil Liberties Union, cried foul, viewing the questionnaire as an attempt to disqualify them from voting in Virginia."[2]
Main article: Student voting rights
  • A Common Cause examination of voting preparedness rated Virginia's student voting rights as "unsatisfactory," citing, "State law requires both “domicile” and “a place of abode” to vote. The State Supreme Court has ruled that you must live in the election district with the intent to remain for an unlimited time. The Secretary of State’s website includes a series of questions for student voters that includes misleading information and seems designed to discourage students. Student identification from public universities is accepted."[1]

Voter education

This section details past and potential election threats caused by the state's laws, regulations and practices on voter education, how to vote, information on elections, etc.

  • A Common Cause examination of voting preparedness rated Virginia's sample ballot system as "unsatisfactory," citing,
"• Sample ballots are not mailed to registered voters.
• Distributes Virginia Easy Voter Guide booklets that explain right to see a sample ballot before voting and who to ask to see one.
By Law
• Nothing in the Code can prohibit the creation of sample ballots.
• The electoral board may designate times and places for the exhibition of voting equipment containing sample ballots, for the purpose of informing voters who request instruction on the use of the equipment."[1]
  • A Common Cause examination of voting preparedness rated Virginia's voter education about provisional ballots as "mixed," citing,
"State Board of Elections Website
• PDF Voter Guide explains provisional ballot option and when applicable.
• Distributes Virginia Easy Voter Guide booklets that explain provisional ballot option and when applicable."[1]
  • A Common Cause examination of voting preparedness rated Virginia's language accessility as "unsatisfactory," citing,
"Voting Rights Act, Sec. 203
• Virginia’s statewide population does not fall under Section 203.
Secretary of State Website
• Information only available in English."[1]
  • A Common Cause examination of voting preparedness rated Virginia's voter education on voting machines as "unsatisfactory," citing,
"State Board of Elections Website
• List of voting equipment used by locality.
• Distribute Virginia Easy Voter Guide booklets that include information on voters’ rights for instructions on voting equipment.
By Law
• “In each county, city, or town in which voting or counting equipment is to be used, the electoral board may designate times and places for the exhibition of equipment containing sample ballots, showing the title of offices to be filled, and, so far as practicable, the names of the candidates to be voted for at the next election for the purpose of informing voters who request instruction on the use of the equipment.”"[1]

Absentee and early voting

This section details problems with and threats to the state's absentee and early voting system.

  • Nov. 5, 2008. One day after the McCain campaign filed a lawsuit seeking the acceptance of military ballots received after the stated deadline of Nov. 4, Judge Richard Williams ordered that all absentee ballots received from overseas military personnel received between Nov.4 and Nov. 14 be preserved pending a final ruling in the case. [3] At issue is the short amount of time soldiers had to receive, fill out, and return their ballots; in one example cited in the case, a Marine serving in Iraq received his ballot only one week before the deadline, and the time needed to mail something from Iraq is typically 12 to 18 days. The counties cited in the lawsuit are Arlington, Chesterfield, Fauquier and Loudoun, and the cities of Chesapeake, Richmond, Suffolk and Virginia Beach.[3] A hearing has been scheduled for Nov. 10, 2008.[3]

Voter suppression and intimidation

This section details problems and threats involving fraud, intimidation and suppression efforts.

Deceptive practices laws

Voter caging, purging and other eligibility challenges

  • A Common Cause examination of voting preparedness rated Virginia's voter challenger system as "unsatisfactory," citing, "Any three qualified voters of the county or city may challenge a voter’s registration. The general registrar must post at the courthouse or publish in the newspaper the names of the persons whose registration will be cancelled and send a notice to the last known address of the voter. If the challenged voter fails to appear at a hearing, his or her registration is cancelled by the registrar. Any voter may challenge another voter on Election Day by filling out a form. Then, the challenged voter must sign a form affirming that he or she is eligible. The voter may vote a regular ballot only if he or she signs the affirmation."[1]

Voter intimidation and deception

  • October 28, 2008. Official-looking flyers are being circulated in Hampton Roads Virginia announcing that Republicans are supposed to vote on November 4, 2008, while Democrats are to come to the polls on November 5. The flyer includes the state board logo and the state seal. It states that "an emergency session of the General Assembly has adopted the follwing (sic) emergency regulations to ease the load on local electorial precincts and ensure a fair electorial process."[4]
  • November 4, 2008. 35,000 students, faculty and staff at George Mason University were sent an email disguised as a message from their provost advising them to wait until Wednesday to vote. A real message from the provost later in the day said that the email system had been hacked, but the Washington Post is reporting that "the hoax succeeded because of a lack of proper filtering on the university's e-mail servers." The email was sent through ", a company in Washington, D.C., that provides e-mail and fund-raising services to Democratic and progressive candidates. Among the group's clients are Va. Gov. Tim Kaine's Moving Virginia Forward campaign and Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh's AllAmerica Political Action Committee Web site." The group confirmed that the message was routed through their servers, as a result of a Tell A Friend page. Chris Lundberg , cheif technology officer for said ""We are as pissed off as anyone about this incident, because our whole intention is to maximize turnout for election, not detract from it." [5]
Main article: Voter suppression

Polling places and voting

This section details past and potential election threats caused by the state's laws, regulations and practices on election practices, polling places, workers, providing election equipment, etc.

Poll worker training, recruitment and distribution

  • A Common Cause examination of voting preparedness rated Virginia's poll worker recruitment as "unsatisfactory," citing, "3 poll workers are required per precinct. By law, underage high school poll workers are not permitted. The SBE assists poll worker recruitment by contacting corporations and preparing advertisements."[1]
  • An August 21, 2008 Associated Press news report appears to confirm Common Cause's observations, writing,
"State and local elections officials, including those in Norfolk, say they still need more than 2,000 people to help on Nov. 4 as election officers.
Officials say help is needed because of the projected increase in voter turnout and the addition of 300 new voting precincts since 2004. Besides Norfolk, other areas needing more workers include the cities of Richmond, Alexandria, Virginia Beach and Fairfax; and Chesterfield, Henrico, Loudoun, Frederick and Pittsylvania counties."[6]
  • A Common Cause examination of voting preparedness rated Virginia's poll worker training as "unsatisfactory," citing, "State law requires only that two poll workers per precinct receive training. There are no statewide training standards."[1]

Voter ID requirements

Polling place accessibility and wait times

  • An October 17, 2008 Washington Post article[7] warns that Virginia's election system is not well-prepared to handle the expected turnout for the 2008 election. From the article,

In Prince William, the number of registered voters increased almost 11 percent this year. But it has taken inadequate actions to handle the anticipated high turnout, according to the Fair Elections Legal Network, another voting rights group. The county has a 6 to 1 ratio of voters to machines, one of the highest in Virginia. On Election Day, it will have four technicians and three spare machines, with 300 paper ballots at each polling place.

"I don't see what the plan is to handle the volume," Goodman said. "We are concerned about really long lines at the polls at critical rush hour times, and we are concerned that they don't have enough machines."

  • November 4, 2008: Voters reported major obstacles to casting their ballot in polling locations across Virginia, which could potentially disenfranchise thousands of voters in the state. Dozens of polling places experienced varying degrees of machine malfunctions. Voters found some polling places completely closed or closed for hours. Thousands of voters may have been turned away illegally by poll workers. Some voters were illegally issued provisional ballets where machines were broken. Students at Virginia Tech saw their polling place suddenly and unexpectedly moved six miles to a location with little parking.[8]

Voting machine and ballot distribution

  • On October 27, 2008 the NAACP sued Virginia government officials, claiming that the state is "not allocating enough voting machines, poll workers and polling places -- particularly in precincts with high minority populations -- which could result in long lines and lost votes."[9]
  • A Common Cause examination of voting preparedness rated Virginia's voting machine distribution as "unsatisfactory," citing, "Precincts using mechanical voting devices must allocate one voting device for every 750 voters; precincts with more than 4500 voters should allocate a voting machine for every additional 500 voters in the precinct. Precincts using an “electronic system which requires the voter to vote a ballot which is inserted in an electronic counter” must provide one booth per 425 registered voters and at least 1 counting machine."[1]

Malfunctioning voting machinery

  • For an extensive log of voting machine problems, see the VotersUnite! report on election incidents.[10]
  • November 4, 2008. Several Fairfax County voting machines would not work when started up on election day. New memory cards were dispatched. It is not clear if these solved the problem. Long lines resulted.[11]
  • November 4, 2008. Voting at more than two-dozen polling places in Virginia came to a standstill caused largely by machine failures and a lack of paper ballots. In Henrico County, many voters had to wait hours to cast their ballots after five of seven voting machines broke down, according to a group called the Election Protection Coalition. No paper ballots were available during the outage.[12]

Ballot design

  • Rain on election day revealed that Virginia ballots can not be reliably tabulated when damp.[13] Drying the ballots will delay tabulation, but should not add to the wait time for voters.

Provisional ballots

This section lists past and potential election threats caused by the state's laws, regulations and practices on provisional ballots. Particularly, what are the state's criteria for receiving a provisional ballot (including voting in the wrong precinct) and its procedures for verifying eligibility and then including those votes in the totals.


Eligibility verification

Ballots cast in wrong precinct

  • A Common Cause examination of voting preparedness rated Virginia's provisional ballot system for voters in the wrong precinct as "unsatisfactory," citing, "Provisional ballots are only counted if cast in the correct precinct."[1]

Vote verification and security

This section details past and potential election threats caused by the state's laws, regulations and practices on vote verification and security.

Voting machine verification and security

Virginia uses the following voting machines in addition to hand-counted paper ballots in some counties. For a county-by-county list of the specific machines (and the source for this section) see Verified Votings' Verifier tool. See also Virginia State Board of Elections: Voting Systems Used in Virginia.

Main article: Voting machines

Direct-Recording Electronic (DRE) machines with a paper trail:

Direct-Recording Electronic (DRE) machines without a paper trail:

Optical scan machines:

Digital scan machines:

Vote tabulation procedures

Recount procedures

Chain of custody of ballots and e-voting equipment

Election public official issues

Premature media race calling

Vote result challenge procedures

Articles and resources

See also


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 Common Cause chart of election issues in Virginia, part of the "Voting in 2008: 10 Swing States," a Common Cause report released September 16, 2008. The areas looked at include: voter registration, voter identification, caging and challenges, deceptive practices, provisional ballots, voting machine allocation, poll worker recruitment and training, voter education and student voting rights.
  2. Home Is Where Your Vote Is -- Sort Of Washington Post, September 30, 2008.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 ,Voting Rights: Judge orders ballots preserved in lawsuit over Virginia military votes,Facing South blog, posted by Sue Sturgis, gathered November 13, 2008.
  4. "Phony flier says Virginians vote on different days," The Virginian-Pilot. October 28, 2008.
  5. JBrian Krebs, "Election Hoax Sent Via D.C. Based E-Campaign Group," Washington", November 4, 2008.
  6. Poll worker shortage cited in Norfolk, other sites in Virginia
  7. "Va. Election Preparations Inadequate, Study Finds," Washington Post, October 17, 2008.
  8. Domenico Montanaro, MSNBC First Read Voting Obstacles in VA, PA, Novemer 4, 2008, 1:58 PM
  9. "NAACP Sues Officials Over Vote Preparations," Washington Post, October 28, 2008.
  10. This past problem and description are from the VotersUnite! Election Problem Log. Click through for included links to origin of report.
  11. Memory cards cause problems in Fairfax County, VA," CNN Political Ticker, November 4, 2008.
  12. Dan Goode, The Register (U.K) E-voting glitches hamper elections in seven states Reporting from San Francisco. November 4, 2008.
  13. Scattered problems reported in historic U.S. vote, November 4, 2008

External resources

Poll location

Election Protection hotlines

Voting information

Voting rights

Voting requirements

Election officials, election reform groups, and elected officials

Absentee voting

Disabled voters

Student voting rights

State ballot

  • See how organizations you trust recommend you vote on ballot measures and other statewide contests at TransparentDemocracy.


  • Help in other languages from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. 中文, 日本語, 한국어, Tagalog, Tiếng Việt, Español

Voting machines

External articles