How COVID-19 Could Change Virginia FOREVER
By Jean Gannon
April 8, 2020
Wednesday, March 11th, Governor Ralph Northam discusses Coronavirus with ABC 7 News. Virginia had, at that time, 9 reported cases. By March 29th The United States had 137,294 cases and 2,414 deaths due to COVID-19. This is a debilitating pandemic and Virginians are taking this seriously through social distancing, working remotely from home (when able) and struggling to hang on just one more day waiting for stimulus money from the Federal Government.
But there is another serious crisis we face today – impending voter fraud and the possibility that Virginia will be changed forever.
Virginia is where it all began. We are home to the oldest deliberative legislative body in the nation. We just celebrated 400 years of the House of Delegates, originally the House of Burgesses. Virginia celebrated our 400th Anniversary of the arrival of the first African slaves last year at the Jamestown Settlement with ceremony and speeches from our Speaker as well as our President, Donald J. Trump.
In an April 8th announcement to registrar and Electoral Board offices across our Commonwealth, the Commissioner of the Department of Elections, Christopher E. “Chris” Piper sent out the following release:
Dear Virginia Elections Community,
From the outset of this pandemic, Governor Northam's and ELECT's number one priority has been the health
and safety of all of the citizens of the Commonwealth. In keeping with that priority, at 2pm today,
Governor Northam will announce a plan requesting the General Assembly to move the May General Election
to the November General Election date. He will request that they move the elections during their upcoming
reconvened session on April 22, 2020. The Governor is also using his statutory authority in § 24.2-603.1 and
issuing an executive order to delay the June 9, 2020 primary until June 23, 2020….
But first, let me give you a little back story on what’s been going on in Virginia since the Democrats took control of the House of Delegates and the Virginia State Senate.
By controlling the House of Delegates and the Senate, Democrats have had their way developing and passing legislation that will change the lives of Virginians for several lifetimes. They were able to pass legislation allowing late term abortion - up to and including birth, raising the minimum wage, driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants, red flag laws and excuse-free early voting and automatic voter registration.
While all these are troubling to me the legislation that I find particularly troubling is the tampering with Election Law.
The election process was painstakingly developed by our forefathers and ensured that no one party or demographic can rule the remainder of the body. During the 2020 legislative session several bills were passed that had to do with re-shaping our electoral process here in the Commonwealth:
2020 ELECTION LEGISLATION
House Bill #1 – no excuse required
House Bill #207 – no excuse required; permanent absentee voter list
House Bill #220 – postage paid on return envelope
House Bill #242 – emergency absentee voting
An article was published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch on Saturday, April 4, 2020 authored by Mel Leonor, titled “To Preserve Health, Democrats expand call for voting by mail”
This article discusses the push to expand vote-by-mail in Virginia amid COVID-19. The article itself briefly touches on the safety of poll workers and voters and disingenuously states that the idea has the support of the Voter Registrars Association of Virginia and the Virginia Electoral Board Association which have “cited challenges and public health risks as barriers to smooth elections in May and June”. The article also claims both associations are calling for the closure of nearly all polling.
The article references a letter by the ACLU to Governor Northam regarding vote-by-mail, but the article does not expand on that letter. The letter calls for overarching recommendations:
Safely expand access to voting by mail by:
Eliminating unnecessary requirements for absentee voting including no witness signature, no photo ID, no Social Security number all in the name of voter suppression and interference with social distancing
Making mail ballots safe and more accessible by using self-sealing envelopes, availability in different languages and providing electronic balloting for voters with disabilities
Relaxing restrictions on who can return ballots given that many people may be “self-quarantined.” HB 242 cited above loosens current restrictions but there should be “emergency ballot allowances
Ensure fairness in returning and counting absentee ballots by:
Expanding the locations where absentee ballots can be returned
Establishing uniform processes for accepting absentee ballots. If a ballot is rejected due to material errors, this amendment would require that election officers contact the voter to confirm they filled out their ballot correctly
Giving voters an opportunity to correct inadvertent mistakes or material omissions on their absentee ballot envelopes
Encouraging election officials to begin processing absentee ballots prior to Election Day
Accepting absentee ballots postmarked by Election Day (as opposed to delivery by Election Day)
Maintain in-person polling locations by:
Ensuring that polling places are sanitized and comply with social distancing recommendations
Prioritizing in-person polling locations where they are most needed and ensuring the safety of those working the polls
Offering early voting opportunities including nights and weekends
Considering visual and language accessibility
Urgent Action Needed by Legislative or Executive Authority:
Recommend an amendment to House Bill 1 that would eliminate excuse-based absentee- voting
Recommend an amendment to House Bill 1 to eliminate witness requirements
Recommend an amendment adding an emergency clause to House Bill 19 and Senate Bill 65 loosening the voter ID requirement
Recommend an amendment to House Bill 220 requiring registrars to provide return postage for absentee ballots
Recommend an amendment adding an emergency clause to SB 455 to immediately allow ballots that are postmarked by Election Day to be considered “timely;”
Recommend an Amendment adding an emergency clause to SB 242 that allows any voter to use a designated representative if they were incapacitated or hospitalized
In the alternative, include language in the caboose budget to address these issues in the short term and incorporate legislation codifying changes for the long term into your legislative packet for 2021.
In an article titled Coronavirus and Elections – Changes Increase Risk of Voter Fraud by Hans A. von Spakovsky, J. Christian Adams, and Cleta Mitchell, some of their key take-aways address everything noted above by the Virginia ACLU’s proposals.
Under the guise of safely expanding access to voting it is being proposed to eliminate those procedures and safety measures that ensure a secure and credible election process. Americans have always taken our election process seriously. Ours is a process that has been acclaimed by countries all over the world as the most effective and just electoral system.
This proposal to the Governor, by Virginia Democrats and the ACLU, eliminates all checks and balances to our system and exposes our process to “intimidation, fraud and chaos.”
The State of Georgia is currently undergoing difficulty with their Democratic Primary that was originally slated to take place on March 24, 2020. The COVID-19 restrictions have impacted scheduling so it is currently on the calendar for May 19th and there is talk that it may undergo another delay to June 23rd.
Georgia’s Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger announced Georgia election officials would mail a form that could be used to request an absentee ballot to all 6.9 million active registered voters in the state for the May election. Ballot applications won’t be mailed to the nearly 370,000 voters who are registered but have been deemed inactive by the state. The Secretary also stated in-person voting will still be available for those who need or want it. The State estimates this program will likely cost $10,000,000. The precautions needed to be put in place to ensure that mail-in-ballots are not on the voter rolls are titanic, not to mention the fact that there seldom are enough poll works during the times when we aren’t experiencing a pandemic.
The ACLU’s letter also promotes “harvesting” of ballots as demonstrated in Paragraph #6 which references an addendum to HB 242. The opportunity and temptation for third party collectors to commit voter fraud is not only viable but very strong. J. Christian Adams served at the Justice Department on a case in Noxubee County, Mississippi where voter fraud, especially through “harvesting” of ballots was prominent. Collectors went through neighborhoods and either intimidated voters to complete their ballot for a certain candidate or they removed the ballots from mailboxes and completed the forms themselves and submitted them.
There is also the vulnerability of the State’s voter polls. If the owner of an address on record moved and didn’t report their vacancy, the mailing of a ballot could lead to an individual who now resides at that address complete a ballot for the former occupant and then proceed to vote again under their own identity.
Mr. Leonor’s article is most disturbing, where he cites that Governor Northam has until April 11, 2020 to send down a plan for changes to the state’s election laws in the form of amendments (cited in this report and attached hereto) and then bring it before the General Assembly on April 22, 2020 when the body reconvenes. Allison Robbins, president of the Registrar’s Association states that we do not have adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) to ensure the safety of election officials, yet we can commandeer the Richmond Convention Center to be used as a field hospital.
As is the case in many other states, our election workers are aging and many are fearful of working the long hours of an Election Day and possibly coming in contact with a contagion. These workers are our neighbors and it is our responsibility to provide for them the safest possible conditions to do their job. That does not and should not result in compromising a safe and secure election. I believe we can achieve both safety and security without any of the amendments proposed by the ACLU and the Democrat agenda.
I have offered my services here in my hometown of Powhatan County for both the primary and the general election and I look forward to serving with strength, courage and integrity.
Jean Gannon is the immediate past Chairwoman for the Powhatan County Republican Committee, current President of the Mill Quarter Republican Woman’s Club, elected as Delegate from the 7th Congressional District Committee to the 2020 RNC Convention and candidate for RNC National Committeewoman from Virginia. She is a committed Republican who works tirelessly for our nation and our Constitution