Opinion: Accountability needed for Virginia election problems (Price's Op Ed)
The elections process in Virginia is now more accessible to voters than ever before thanks to the work Democrats did in 2020. Turnout in the November elections set records for midterm elections thanks to the easy access to the voting booth activists worked to achieve. Our work led to Virginia moving from being ranked 49th to 11th in a ranking of states that make voting accessible. We’ve worked hard to ensure that everyone who wants to make their voice heard in our elections has not only the right to do so, but the ability and access to make it happen.
But our democracy is under attack, even here in Virginia. We’ve been through so much, just trying to put one foot in front of the other. We’ve pushed, we’ve rallied, we’ve survived against all odds, and now, once again, we’re under attack with zero accountability to uphold the very thing that so many have died to defend. Republicans such as Gov. Glenn Youngkin and Attorney General Jason Miyares don’t share our excitement for making voting more accessible to everyone. In fact, they are doing everything they can to halt our progress, make voting more difficult than ever, and to put up purposeful barriers to voting in the hopes that it will help them cling on to power.
Leading up to Election Day, a delay in voter registration processing resulted in more than 250,000 voter registration applications being dumped on local registrars for processing with very little time before Election Day. It was only thanks to local registrars and their staff working overtime that Election Day went as smoothly as it did. Despite her department’s massive error, Commissioner of Elections Susan Beals, a hyper-partisan who once worked for election denier and insurrectionist state Sen. Amanda Chase, is trying to blame the error on Democrats for making voting more accessible for everyone instead of on her failure to run a successful Department of Elections.
In addition to the problems processing voter registration applications, the Department of Elections mailed incorrect information about voting to more than 30,000 voters. It’s unclear how many voters this mistake disenfranchised, but the number is not zero. Incompetence like this that leads to voters being unable to make their voice heard in our elections is unacceptable. We must come together to hold the Department of Elections accountable for their mistakes and ensure that no other voters are prevented from casting their ballots by misinformation and incompetence.
Lastly, Virginia has a new vendor to replace the VERIS system. It takes time and patience to build out an election system that works for everyone in the commonwealth, and yet Beale’s office recklessly sat on the new contract for months, leaving the general public out of the loop on our new system, a timeline for launch, and other details needed. Then, after it was finally announced, the contract includes a much longer initial build out phase and longer term maintenance period. The public deserves transparency and accountability in its voting systems and how elections are run in Virginia.
We cannot and will not accept attacks on our right to vote. I’m calling on Youngkin to hold Beals accountable, to make a commitment to the voters of Virginia to get the Department of Elections back on track, and to ensure that every single voter who wants to vote in our elections has the ability to do so. With the entire House of Delegates and state Senate of Virginia on the ballot next year in addition to local races, we need to correct these mistakes and head into next year’s election season with confidence that our Department of Elections knows what they are doing.
Del. Marcia “Cia” Price represents parts of Newport News and Hampton in the 95th House District.