“While elections in Virginia are generally well organized and run by dedicated public servants, there are a number of risks we must monitor in order to keep anti-democracy actors from undermining elections this year,” said Jenna Lowenstein, Executive Director of Informing Democracy. “This guide is a must-use resource for journalists and advocates to know which vulnerabilities to monitor for and which election officials to keep close eye on as votes are counted in the Commonwealth this November.”
In conducting research into the Commonwealth’s election administration, Informing Democracy found that Virginia elections procedures are largely codified in detail in statute and regulation, meaning that local electoral boards, registrars, or other administrators have limited discretion over only some portions of the vote counting and certification process. This makes it unlikely that even election deniers or subverters serving in an official role could fully undermine a Virginia election.
Informing Democracy did, however, find a number of troubling, anti-democracy trends in Virginia ahead of the upcoming general election, including:
- Election Deniers and Subverters In Key Election Positions: Individuals who denied the results of the 2020 election or cast doubt on the safety and security of our elections are now in key positions of power over Virginia’s elections in 2023 and beyond. The report identifies bad actors in Albemarle, Frederick, Hampton, Loudoun, Lynchburg, Newport, Portsmouth, Roanoke, and other counties.
- Concerning Registrar Turnover In Key Localities: Across Virginia, multiple jurisdictions will go into the 2023 election with new registrars in office with limited experience, potentially threatening to upend a delicate system. Additionally, some recent election staff hires create the appearance of a partisan agenda from electoral boards, over what is designed to be a non-partisan process.
- Inaccurate, Partisan Trainings For Poll Watchers: Virginia Fair Elections (“VFE”), a coalition of organizations associated with election denialism and other efforts to disrupt elections, and a member of a local Electoral Board in Virginia have conducted problematic trainings in the Commonwealth that combine trainings for officers of elections (official poll workers) and partisan “poll observers.” Not only does this cause unnecessary confusion by mixing very different roles, it raises the possibility of contentious interactions between officers of elections and those poll observers that could delay the vote counting process.
You can read the full report here. For questions about the upcoming elections in Virginia or to speak with a researcher, please email Ryan Thomas at [email protected].