This past Tuesday I participated at a Town Hall forum in Richmond that 3rd District Congressman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott sponsored to examine the 2008 election process. I agree with his opening statement that “It is important that we address both positive and negative aspects of the voting process. We should use this opportunity to learn from the November 4, 2008 election to encourage and improve voting for all of our citizens.”
Congressman Scott put together quite a panel from voter protection experts, to those with first hand knowledge of the process from registration to tabulation and the successes and problems encountered around the November 4, 2008 election.
Issues presented included the NAACP’s lawsuit filed against the Commonwealth questioning whether the state had adequately prepared for Election Day, Virginia’s experience of record turnouts in both the primary and general election cycles, the impact of DRE’s, and the restoration of voting rights.
During the Town Hall it was apparent that Virginia has a way to go to make the process of voting in the Commonwealth easy, open, transparent and verifiable. While covering voting procedures and practices general agreement was easily arrived at among panel and audience that Virginia should provide for no excuse absentee voting and early voting.
Reports from across Virginia of long lines with 4-6 hour wait times, an average of 13% absentee voting, disparities of voting machines from 1 for every 750 registered voters to 1 for every 180, multiple voter registrations by the same individual, use of optical scanners and electronic poll books sped up the process, and military votes arriving too late to be included in the count.
I spoke of voting earlier in Fredericksburg in the special election for Commonwealth’s Attorney and the process, the need to have HAVA mandate only open source software be used in voting machines and tabulators, and that Congress needs to address the Bush v. Gore ruling that determined none of us are entitled to our vote.
My thanks to Congressman Scott, his staff, the panel, and all those who took the time to attend an offer such a broad array of potential improvements and analysis of the ’08 election cycle.