RICHMOND – In the wake of a tied contest and other issues in last fall’s elections, Republican leaders in the General Assembly announced Thursday that they will form a panel to address such situations at the polls in the future.
“There were numerous questions raised during the 2017 elections,” said House Speaker Kirk Cox, who made the announcement alongside Senate Majority Leader Thomas Norment. “This subcommittee will have the ability to broadly review these questions and determine what, if any, steps should be taken.”
Cox and Norment said the joint subcommittee will deal with concerns such as absentee ballots, the assignment of voters in split precincts and recount law and procedures.
“These issues are not about who wins or loses elections but about the confidence of the public in our elections,” Norment said. “We never go through an election without a contentious result in a closely fought contest. Citizens expect us to protect and ensure the integrity of the process.”
The subcommittee will be co-chaired by two Republicans – Del. Mark Cole of Spotsylvania County and Sen. Jill Vogel of Fauquier County. Cole chairs the House Privileges and Elections Committee, and Vogel chairs the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee.
“We need to examine these issues comprehensively, using a process that takes all viewpoints into account,” Vogel said.
The announcement did not include how many Democrats would be on the subcommittee. Republicans hold a slim majority in both the House and Senate.
Some Democrats have their own ideas how to address the election issues. Backed by the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, Del. Marcia Price, D-Newport News, introduced a bill that called for a special election in the case of a tie vote.
A House subcommittee killed that proposal, HB 1581, on a 4-2 vote early Thursday morning. The panel was split along party lines, with Republicans in favoring of killing the measure and Democrats against.
By Chelsea Jackson
Capital News Service