Electoral Boards, General Registrars, and the Election Process

Electoral Boards and the General Registrar they hire are responsible for managing the voting process, both absentee and in-person at polling places
Electoral Boards and the General Registrar they hire are responsible for managing the voting process, both absentee and in-person at polling places
Source: Virginia Board of Elections, Prince William County, VA: Analysis of Voting Data from November, 2012

The five-member State Board of Elections oversees the Virginia Department of Elections. The two state organizations are responsible for supervising and coordinating local election administration, but each city and county has an three-member Electoral Board appointed by the chief judge of the local Circuit Court. The local boards have the power to design ballots and administer elections in each town, county and city.

There are 133 local Electoral Boards that oversees the voting process in 95 counties and 38 cities, so there is a total of 399 local Electoral Board members in Virginia. Each Electoral Board hires its own General Registrar, the person who is responsible for administering each election. Statewide, the 133 General Registrars hire roughly 10,000 election officers for Election Day.

Registrars and Electoral Boards notify the Town Council, City Council, or county Board of Supervisors when precinct boundaries need to be modified. Changes typically are needed when population growth results in a precinct exceeding 5,000 registered voters, when cities and towns adjust their boundaries, and after General Assembly and Congressional district boundaries are redistricted every decade. In 2020, Virginia had 2,453 precincts.

The election officers serve as a greeter at the election sites ("polls") to direct voters to the appropriate table in the building with a pollbook officer, pollbook officer to validate a voter is eligible and to mark that they received a ballot, ballot officer to account for every ballot (including those marked as "spoiled"), voting equipment and booth officer to provide assistance if requested in using the electronic voting technology and inserting the ballot into the optical scan tabulator, plus a chief officer and perhaps an assistant chief officer to ensure procedures are followed and provide guidance when needed.

Thousands more poll watchers (observers) are recruited by political parties to look for fraudulent or irregular behavior at the polls during voting and vote counting. Observers are authorized only to communicate with election officials; they have no decision-making authority at the poll. In theory, the extra eyes and ears of observers will increase election integrity and also increase public confidence that an election was conducted fairly.

Each political party is entitled to have three observers in the room on Election Day, from the opening of the electronic ballot boxes to the shipment of marked ballots and electrocic voting machines to the local Electoral Board at the end of the day. In addition, observers may also stand guard next to outdoor ballot drop boxes prior to Election Day.

After President Trump proclaimed that the 2020 election was stolen, there was a surge of interest in the electoral process and in behind-the-scenes procedures.

Educating political activists about the procedures, and allowing them to observe in person, does not prevent people from making claims about voter fraud. Though the Republican candidate for governor in 2021 did not endorse Trump's dishonest claims about the 2020 election, a Republican State Senator claimed before Election Day that the Democrats were planning to steal the race. She offered no evidence, but boldly stated:1

... they're stealing elections in Virginia... They're moving, in cyberland, they are switching inactive voters to active voters, all in the same week, it's undetectable.

President Trump's false claims that the 2020 election was fraudulent spurred public interest in the details of managing polling places and counting votes
President Trump's false claims that the 2020 election was fraudulent spurred public interest in the details of managing polling places and counting votes
Source: Tyler Merbler, Heads (January 6, 2021)

The Electoral Board has the authority to fire the General Registrar before their four-year term has expired. The Fairfax County Electoral Board fired its General Registrar in May, 2018, just two weeks before the primary election. The firing was triggered by the registrar's refusal to comply with board direction to process voter registration updates received from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles.

The registrar was concerned that the printed version of the updates were not consistent with the information which voters had submitted electronically or at the Department of Motor Vehicles, and had added information beyond the address change request. He notified 5,000 voters who had moved to Fairfax County that that had to fill out paper registration forms before they would be registered to vote, in order to ensure the integrity of the information in the database. The Virginia Department of Elections contended that the data was accurate and the process used by registrars to print reports created the problem.

The Fairfax County Electoral Board vote was 3-0, so both Republican and Democratic members agreed to the termination.

In 2021, the Charlotte County registrar resigned abruptly after being accused of mismanagement by both Republican and Democratic leaders. The registrar apparently had failed to pay bills on time, and had not secured voting machines in the early voting period before the November election. The registrar had previously claimed the secretary of the county electoral board had threatened him, and even obtained a protective order from the local court. The abrupt resignation occurred during a court proceeding involving the protective order.

The Charlotte County Electoral Board certified the results of the 2021 General Election on November 2, but then questioned how the mail-in ballots had been managed by the registrar. In the end, the secretary of the Electoral Board wrote to the Virginia State Board of Elections:2

I highly suspect fraudulent use of the mail in ballots in the recent election and because of this I must withdraw my certification of the results.

At the state level, the governor appoints the five members of the State Board of Elections. The General Assembly must confirm the appointees, who serve four-year terms. Three Board members must represent the political party of the Governor. However, when a Republican Governor replaced a Democratic Governor in 2022, no terms of the members of the State Board of Elections expired until 2023. For the first year of Governor Youngkin's term, the Democratic Party retained majority control of the State Board of Elections.

Youngkin did use his authority to appoint a new Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Elections. In the General Assembly, legislators debated a bill to eliminate the governor's authority to make that appointment and have the State Board of Elections choose the commissioner.

after being elected in 2021, Republican Governor Youngkin could not gain a majority of members of the State Board of Elections until 2023
after being elected in 2021, Republican Governor Youngkin could not gain a majority of members of the State Board of Elections until 2023
Source: Secretary of the Commonwealth, State Board of Elections

The three members of each Electoral Board are appointed by local Circuit Court judges, using a list proposed by the local political parties. Each year, judges appoint one new member to serve a three-year term starting March 1. Electoral Board members are typically politically active, but may not be paid campaign workers, political party committee chairs, elected officials, or government employees. Even substitute teachers are disqualified from serving on an Electoral Board.3

Two members of the local Electoral Board must belong to the same political party as the governor, while one represents the other party. At the end of each governor's term, there will be two members on all Electoral Boards who represent his/her party, and one of those terms will be expiring.

For example, at the end of a Democratic governor's term, all Electoral Boards will have two Democratic members and one Republican member. When Republican Glenn Youngkin was elected in 2021 to replace Democrat Ralph Northam, the chief judge of the Circuit Court had to appoint a Republican in 2022 to replace a Democratic member whose term was expiring. Those appointments shifted the 2-1 political balance on all local Electoral Boards for the next four years.

The governor had no official authority to replace members of local Electoral Boards, but he has influence. In 2022, news reports revealed that the Republican in charge of the City of Hampton Electoral Board had posted racist comments on Facebook. The local Republican Party called for the Electoral Board member to resign, and after he declined the party asked the Circuit Court judge to replace him. After Governor Youngkin, a fellow Republican, echoed the call to resign, the chair submitted his resignation and the chief judge of the Hampton Circuit Court formally removed him from the Hampton Electoral Board.

In the 1990's the primary responsibility for each Electoral Board and General Registrar was record-keeping. Voting machine technology today has added much greater complexity.

The state reimburses cities and counties for the salaries of the general registrar, using a pay scale based on the population of the jurisdiction. There are six population brackets, and registrars in areas with over 200,000 people get the highest salaries:4

up to 25,000 people
25,001 - 50,000 people
50,001 - 100,000 people
100,001 - 150,000 people
150,001 - 200,000 people
200,001 or more people

Registrars hire some permanent staff, and may rely upon just part-time staff in areas with smaller populations. All registrars rely heavily upon temporary poll workers ("Officers of Election") who staff precincts on election days. Temporary poll workers set up machines before polls open at 6:00am. They check the names of everyone who appears to vote in the polling book, which lists all registered voters eligible to vote in that precinct.

County supervisors and city councils gave the final authority to define the boundaries of voting precincts, and rely upon input from local registrars. State law requires that the polling place for each precinct, the building where voters go to cast their votes, must be within the county or city and within a mile of the precinct boundaries. Precinct boundaries must be drawn so there are no more than 5,000 registered voters. The minimum number of voters in a city precinct is 500, while the minimum for a precinct in a county is 100 registered voters.5

"Split precincts" include more than one local/state/Federal voting district. In such precincts, election officials do not give the same ballot to every voter. Instead, election officials must check the poll book to determine the election districts in which each voter is authorized to vote based on the location of their official residence, then provide a ballot with the correct set of candidates.

Split districts add to the workload of the poll workers and create the potential that people will cast their votes in the wrong races. The Louisa County voter registrar commented before the 2019 general election:6

We have a precinct that has 3,000 voters in it and five of those voters are in a different district and have a different ballot so we have to make sure that everyone gets the right ballot.

If the voter is in the correct precinct, poll workers hand them the ballot which corresponds to their local/state/Federal voting districts. For example, ballots distributed to voters in all six precincts within the City of Fairfax will include spaces to vote for members of City Council, but not for the Board of Supervisors in Fairfax County.

in 2019, the City of Fairfax registrar distributed ballots to six precincts
in 2019, the City of Fairfax registrar distributed ballots to six precincts
Source: City of Fairfax, Voting Precincts

After the 2010 redistricting, the state Delegate for the 37th District was elected by voters in both the City of Fairfax and in a part of Fairfax County. The registrar in Fairfax County ensured that voters in 10 of Fairfax County's precincts (including #134, "University Precinct" at Merten Hall on George Mason University's Fairfax campus) received ballots which included the race for the 37th House of Delegates seat. The registrar in the City of Fairfax distributed ballots within the city that also included the race for the 37th House of Delegates seat.

registrars distributed ballots so voters in all six City of Fairfax precincts, plus __ precincts in Fairfax County, could vote in elections for the 37th District of the House of Delegates
registrars distributed ballots so voters in all six City of Fairfax precincts, plus 10 precincts in Fairfax County, could vote in elections for the 37th District of the House of Delegates
Source: Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP), House of Delegates District 37

The 2020 General Assembly anticipated how precincts would be affected when new voting district boundaries were drawn after the decennial census. The maximum size of a precinct was set at 5,000 registered voters.

A new law required that, after 2021 redistricting, precincts had to be be wholly contained within a single congressional district, Senate district, House of Delegates district, and local election district (for city wards or county magisterial districts). Split precincts could be authorized via a waiver from the State Board of Elections, if the alternative would require establishing a precinct with less than the minimum number of voters. The law defined he minimum:7

...each precinct in a county shall have no fewer than 100 registered voters and each precinct in a city shall have no fewer than 500 registered voters.

If a person appears in person to vote on election day but lacks adequate identification, poll workers require that voter to mark a provisional ballot. Other circumstances, including extension of voting times past 7:00pm, also trigger a need for provisional ballots. Provisional ballots are counted only after determining the day after the vote that the person was eligible.

poll workers issue provisional ballots, allowing people to submit a vote, in specific circumstances
poll workers issue provisional ballots, allowing people to submit a vote, in specific circumstances
Source: Fairfax County, Election Officer Manual (April 2016, p.66)

All voters mark their ballot in secret. In most cases, they now run the marked ballot through an electronic scanning machine. At the precincts, election officials should never see how an individual voted. If a disabled voter needs assistance, they may use their own assistant to mark their ballot.

Election officials do see the total votes recorded by each machine, after polls close at 7:00pm and the last person then standing in line has voted. Those totals are reported to the General Registrar, who then forwards the uncertified totals to the Virginia Department of Elections. "Official" totals are submitted as much as several weeks later, after ensuring all inconsistencies have been addressed and provisional votes counted.

The temporary staff typically works the entire election day, from setting up the machines in the precinct before opening the doors to reporting the final vote. If there are discrepancies between voting machine totals and the number of people recorded as voting, then the workers may stay several extra hours before reporting the vote tally for that precinct.

Recruiting election officials is a challenge for General Registrars. Fairfax County advises that a poll workers will be at the precinct from 5:00am-9:00pm, for which they were paid $175 in 2018. In that election, workers were allowed to sign up for just a half-day split shift. There was no extra "overtime" pay if the count required extra time to resolve discrepancies on election night.

For the 2020 election, the Fairfax County Electoral Board planned to hire 3,500 elections officers and to provide 13 in-person absentee voting locations for those who voted before election day. Because turnout was projected to be between 85-90% of registered voters, a member of that Electoral Board said:8

...we're ordering a lot of ballots.

Election day planning by registrars is equivalent to how pizza stores plan for Superbowl Sunday. Pizza store owners project the number of customers for that day, order a surge of supplies (dough and toppings), hire temporary staff, and then wait for customers to appear. Registrars estimate how many voters will show up at the polls for each election. Based on the estimates, they order printed ballots, recruit and train temporary staff, and assign voting machines to each precinct. The goal is to have voters come and go within 30 minutes, with most of that time waiting in line. Ideally, actual voting should require just 5 minutes.

the ideal for General Registrars is that all voters complete the entire process, including waiting in line, within 30 minutes
the ideal for General Registrars is that all voters complete the entire process, including waiting in line, within 30 minutes
Source: Prince William County, Election Service Levels (March 13, 2018)

For the November, 2012 election, Prince William County officials miscalculated how many people would register and vote. The Electoral Board and General Registrar did not allocate enough machines or staff to some precincts, creating long lines.

In the River Oaks precinct, the last voter finally cast a ballot at 10:46pm, nearly four hours after the polls officially closed. The delays triggered accusations of intentional voter suppression in precincts expected to vote for Democratic candidates.

In subsequent elections, the county added more precincts to accommodate more voters. The Electoral Board and General Registrar also used registration statistics examined closer to the date of the election, in order to allocate staff and equipment to match anticipated demand more closely.

A bi-partisan task force in Prince William County concluded, after reviewing the long lines in the 2012 election, that voter suppression was not intentional. Delays were caused by outdated voting machines, the need to match addresses to provide correct ballots after the 2011 Census triggered redistricting, and requests for assistance by voters with physical limitations as required under the Help America Vote Act.

In particular, Prince William County had drawn boundaries that put too many voters into a single precinct. The number of voters overloaded the ability of poll workers to provide ballots in large precincts, and made it difficult for voters to get into polling places:9

Large precinct size causes many problems to cascade from the mere crush of voters at the polls. For example, it is quite apparent that a large precinct in a high-turnout election will cause parking problems at polling places, particularly if they are located in elementary schools or middle schools...

voters who do not cast ballots before election day may experience long lines at polling places
voters who do not cast ballots before election day may experience long lines at polling places
voters who do not cast ballots before election day may experience long lines at polling places
Source: Virginia Board of Elections, Prince William County, VA: Analysis of Voting Data from November, 2012

Local registrars are responsible for ensuring voters are assigned to the correct precinct. Errors in making such assignments may have affected the November 2017 race in the 94th District for the House of Delegates.

The initial vote total determined the Republican candidate won by 10 votes. In the recount, managed by a Recount Court with three Circuit Court judges, the ballots were examined again and the Democratic candidate won the race by one vote. However, before the Recount Court met to certify the election an election official changed his mind and decided to count a ballot that had initially been discarded. The Recount Court judges accepted that proposal. The final vote ended in a tie, with each candidate getting 11,608 votes after the recount was finished.

To resolve the tie vote, the Virginia Board of Elections then picked the winner "by lot," which was done through drawing names from a bowl. The random result gave the seat to the Republican candidate. The impact was felt statewide, because the decision gave the Republican Party a 51-49 partisan edge in the House of Delegates for the next two years. The Electoral Board was not involved in the recount process, but its assignment of voters to different precincts ended up being part of the controversy.

In 2018, the Virginia Department of Elections began a "misassigned voter" project using more-accurate data and Geographic Information Systems technology not normally available to local Electoral Boards. The objective was to ensure a more-accurate alignment between where people lived and the precincts where they voted.

Six months after the 2017 election, the state agency revealed that voters in the 94th District had been assigned to the wrong voting district by the Newport News registrar. 26 residents of seven new apartment buildings in the Lee Hall precinct of the 94th District were given ballots to cast votes for candidates in the 93rd District.

The local registrar had incorrectly assumed the Zip Codes of those buildings placed them in the 93rd district. Since 85% of the Lee Hall precinct voted for the Democratic candidate, there was a significant chance that the registrar's mistake in assigning the 26 people who voted to the wrong district prevented the Democratic candidate from winning in the 94th District. The tie vote and then "by lot" decision on the winner of that single seat flipped the partisan control of the House of Delegates from Democratic to Republican.

errors by the Newport News registrar in assigning voters in the Lee Hall precinct may have altered results in the 2017 election for the 94th District
errors by the Newport News registrar in assigning voters in the Lee Hall precinct may have altered results in the 2017 election for the 94th District
Source: Virginia Public Access Project, House of Delegates District 94 (2017)

The Virginia Department of Elections discovered the mistake by using maps based on Geographic Information System (GIS) technology rather than mailing addresses. Similar errors were identified in other districts as well; by 2018, the state agency had:10

...identified 9,140 voters at 7,565 addresses (out of approximately 5.5 million registered voters) who appear to have been assigned to the wrong congressional or state legislative districts.

Errors are particularly likely where precincts are "split" between voting districts, and poll officials need to provide different ballots to voters within the same precinct.

Local registrars did not have access to the state agency's technology and the Virginia Election and Registration Information System ("VERIS"). In Newport News, the local Electoral Board had not provided the funds for the registrar to build a local mapping system, and the city had not provided access to its computerized mapping system.

The Virginia Department of Elections can advise local registrars of potential errors in voter assignments, but only the local registrars have the authority to assign voters to specific precincts. The state agency concluded that local registrars relied at times upon incorrect sources of data, and:11

...may incorrectly determine a voter belongs in an election district/precinct because the voter pays taxes or receives utility services from a specific locality.

Taxes, utility services, etc. have no influence on election districts or where a person votes.

the Virginia Department of Elections documented how a local General Registrar (GR) could mistakenly assign voters in a split precinct to the wrong district
the Virginia Department of Elections documented how a local General Registrar (GR) could mistakenly assign voters in a split precinct to the wrong district
the Virginia Department of Elections documented how a local General Registrar (GR) could mistakenly assign voters in a split precinct to the wrong district
Source: Virginia Board of Elections, Agenda, June 19, 2018

According to the Code of Virginia, a registrar may need to know the location of a bedroom within a house in order to assign the resident to the correct voting precinct:12

A person whose residence is divided by a jurisdictional boundary line or election district boundary line shall be deemed to reside in the location of his bedroom or usual sleeping area

In August, 2018, the Virginia Board of Elections provided the Pittsylvania County registrar a list of 300 addresses that could have been assigned to the wrong voting precinct. Several weeks before the November 6 election, 31 voters were sent letters telling them they lived in Halifax County and should vote there in the future, rather than at their traditional Pittsylvania County precinct.

On election day, three of those 31 people still showed up at their normal polling place. The registrar had updated the polling books, and the three were redirected to the appropriate polling place in Halifax.13

Another review by the Virginia Department of Elections in 2018 determined that residents of 23 properties split by the Essex County-Caroline County border were voting in the wrong county. They had been paying taxes to Essex County, going to schools in Essex County, and voting in Essex County, but the state agency determined that they lived in bedrooms located in Caroline County.

The solution was to ask the General Assembly to adjust the county boundary in 2019 and make the people official residents of Essex County. As the Caroline County Administrator described the situation:14

All these people went to school in Essex, they've voted in Essex. They don't want to be Caroline citizens - they always thought they were Essex citizens.

The State Board of Elections has the authority to certify or decertify voting machines used to record votes in elections, and local Electoral Boards must comply. In 2017, in response to accusations that Russia had explored ways to affect results of elections, the state agency decertified the touch screen machines used in 23 jurisdictions within the state and required use of use paper ballots and electronic scanners. Recounts would be more reliable with a paper trail.15

Election results are not final until all ballots are counted. The initial results announced on election night and into the next morning will indicate how many precincts have been counted. Absentee ballots that are postmarked by the time the polls close on election day and delivered within three more days will be counted.

Sometimes, provisional ballots are the last to be tabulated. Such ballots are issued to voters who claim they are both registered and eligible to vote in the election, but may not have brought adequate identification to the polls.

Voters who come to the polls may also cast a provisional ballot if they had requested an absentee ballot, but did not bring it physically to the poll to surrender so election officials could be certain they did not vote twice. A pollbook may mistakenly - or correctly - indicate a person has already voted. Allowing the voter to fill out a provisional ballot ensures the right to vote in not blocked, but allows election officials to correct any mistakes with pollbook records.16

A post-Election Day canvass is performed by each local Electoral Board to ensure all the votes have been counted and reported correctly. That review is a key step before each board certifies results as "official." It is common for the numbers of the unofficial results to be revised on the night of the election and to change slightly before certification of an election, but uncommon for presumed results to change after all precincts have submitted unofficial results.

In the 2021 General Election, the results announced on Tuesday night in Prince William County reflected a significant error by an election official. One candidate was credited with 16,000 extra votes after early, in-person votes cast at once polling place were counted twice, while 1,200 early, in-person votes cast at another polling place were not reported. The inaccurate numbers were submitted to the Virginia Department of Elections website, but corrected within hours. The mistake did not affect the results of two affected elections, but the winners had lower margins of victory.

That same election day, mistakes in Montgomery County did alter the winner of one of three seats for Christiansburg Town Council. Election officials correctly shut down the voting machines and printed tapes from each summarizing the results. Mistakes were made in the central absentee precinct when recording the numbers for the report submitted to the Virginia Department of Elections. The post-election canvass caught the mistakes on Thursday night. On Friday, one candidate who thought he had won election discovered he had come in fifth, while another candidate coming to terms with his defeat realized he was in fact a winner.

The incumbent in House of Delegates District 91 thought she had lost and conceded the race in 2021. On Friday night after the election, officials discovered that figures had been transposed when tabulating results and she withdrew the concession. The canvass revealed that the winner in the race had less than 0.5 percentage points more votes, so the incumbent requested a state-funded recount after announcing:17

In light of this news and the significant shift we have seen in the count since Tuesday night, we think it wise to do our due diligence to make sure every vote is fairly and accurately counted. We will allow the process the full time and effort it takes to ensure accuracy.

In addition to the 91st District race, in 2021 the House of Delegates race in the 85th District had a winning margin of less than 0.5% - close enough to justify a state-funded recount. In both cases, the recount reaffirmed the initial outcome. In the 91st District, the recount reduced the winning margin out of 27,836 votes from 94 to 64, but the Republican candidate remained the winner. The winning margin in the 85th District, out of 28,442 total votes, dropped from 127 to 115 votes in the recount.

The canvass process after Election Day corrects almost all errors created during unofficial reporting on election night, when polling place officials may have tired from been working for 14-18 hours. Recounts do have the potential to overturn close votes, as demonstrated in 2017 when the 94th District result for the House of Delegates race was switched after the recount ended with a tie, but changing the winner is a very rare experience.

The primary value of the recount process overseen by a panel of three Circuit Court judges is to increase confidence on the counting done by local election officials. In 2021, the losing candidate in the 91st District included in her concession speech:18

Recounts offer the opportunity to make sure each vote has been counted accurately and instill confidence when margins are razor-thin.

The State Board of Elections can not remove members of local Electoral Boards and Registrars if they fail to follow state laws and procedures. Only Circuit Court judges have that authority.

After the November, 2015 election, the chair of the Electoral Board in Prince William County brought four members of his political party into the county's Office of Elections and conducted an unauthorized investigation.

He administered the oath taken by election officials, claiming that deputized and authorized the four members of his team to examine records in the office. Their intent was to document that the online process allowing people to request absentee ballots had resulted in voter fraud. After comparing signatures on envelopes returning absentee ballots with signatures on file in the Office of Elections, the investigators claimed that 6% were questionable.

The elections office staff objected to the intrusion into voter privacy, which included review of records with birthdates and Social Security numbers. The chair had picked a time when he knew the Registrar would be on vacation.

A month earlier, the Electoral Board in a 2-1 vote had rejected the chair's request to conduct signature verification for ballots that had been requested online, after being told by the Virginia Department of Elections that such a process would violate state and Federal law.

The public uproar regarding the irregular review of official records spawned an investigation by the Commonwealth's Attorney, though ultimately no legal action was taken. In January, 2016, the State Board of Elections voted 2-1 to request that the local Circuit Court remove the chair from the Prince William County Electoral Board because of his inappropriate investigation. Claims of voter fraud were a partisan issue at the time, and the 2-1 vote to remove the Electoral Board member split along partisan lines.

The head of the state board described removal of a local Electoral Board member as the "nuclear option" for enforcement of state law, noting:19

I take no joy in that... But this seems about as egregious as I've ever seen.

In 2018, the State Board of Elections voted 3-0 to request removal of two of the three members of the Electoral Board in the City of Hopewell, based on malfeasance in office. The two, both members of the Democratic Party, had authorized a ballot that printed the names of some candidates in upper-case block letters, highlighting them unfairly compared to other candidates on the ballot. The two also voted in a meeting closed to the public to hire a new General Registrar, which was a violation of the state Freedom of Information Act.

However, the State Board of Elections does not have the authority to remove members of local Electoral Boards. They are appointed by local Circuit Court judges, and can only be removed by those judges. To the Electoral Board members replaced, the State Board of Elections had to petition the local Circuit Court. The Virginia Attorney General's office represented the State Board of Elections in the process. The two Electoral Board officials had to make their own arrangements for legal services.

The judge suspended the two officials but did not remove them immediately. Instead, he agreed to their request for a jury trial. The judge also appointed temporary replacements to the Hopewell Electoral Board to oversee the upcoming election, which was less than three weeks away. At the end of February, 2019, a jury found the two members had been negligent in their duties and removed them.

At that point, the temporary appointees replaced the two people who were removed from the Hopewell Electoral Board. Soon thereafter, in a unanimous vote all three members fired the General Registrar. Firing the Registrar who had been hired by the previous Electoral Board members was possible, but had to be done before July 1, 2019. At that time, a new state law was supposed to go into effect that allowed only a Circuit Court judge to remove a Registrar, giving those officials the same job protection as given to the three members of the Electoral Board. Governor Northam later vetoed the bill, leaving Electoral Boards with the authority to fire as well as to hire their General Registrars. A Hopewell Circuit Court judge later upheld the legality of the Electoral Board's action.20

In fallout from the controversy, the mayor and three incumbents were defeated in the November, 2018 election. Four Hopewell City Council seats were on the ballot. Only one incumbent was re-elected, and she had no opponent.21

in 2018, Hopewell election officials proposed a ballot highlighting some candidates unfairly with capital letters
in 2018, Hopewell election officials proposed a ballot highlighting some candidates unfairly with capital letters
Source: Virginia State Board of Elections, Agenda (September 20, 2018)

Registrars have authority to register voters, but are not empowered to automatically delete a voter's registration if they move to another district within the state. The General Assembly has created a process for removing a person from the voting rolls.

In Richmond, three residents asked the local registrar to take even more assertive action. They requested that the registrar remove a member of City Council, after the Councilman for the 5th District moved to a new house located in the 1st District. The three petitioners included the former chair of the Virginia Board of Elections, the former 5th District Councilman, and a former assistant city attorney, but the registrar refused to claim any authority to remove a sitting member of City Council because he had moved.22

Counting and Recounting the Votes

Disfranchising Convicted Felons and Restoring Their Right to Vote

Maintaining/Purging the List of Registers Voters

Voting in Modern Virginia

What Happens If the Vote Ends In a Tie?

Links

References

1. "Officer of Election Basics," Virginia Department of Elections, https://www.elections.virginia.gov/officer-of-elections/; "Virginia AG presses GOP senator for proof of claims of fraud in statewide elections," Washington Post, October 28, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/virginia-politics/virginia-election-chase-fraud-claims-herring/2021/10/28/2cad0a4a-381f-11ec-9bc4-86107e7b0ab1_story.html; "Virginia Department of Elections uses facts to dispel voting myths," Richmond Times-Dispatch, October 29, 2021, https://richmond.com/news/state-and-regional/virginia-department-of-elections-uses-facts-to-dispel-voting-myths/article_2244a950-4041-57fd-9366-a884aff8c3d1.html; "An army of poll watchers - many driven by GOP's 'election integrity' push - turns out across Virginia," Washington Post, October 27, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/dc-md-va/2021/10/27/virginia-poll-watchers-election/; "Results: The Most Detailed Map of the Virginia Democratic Primary," New York Times, March 3, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/03/03/us/elections/precinct-map-virginia-primary.html; "The Handbook - Section 3.2.3.2, Minimum and Maximum Populations Served," Virginia Department of Elections, September 2020, https://www.elections.virginia.gov/media/grebhandbook/2020-individual-chapters/3_Precincts_and_Polling_Places_(2020).pdf (last checked November 2, 2021)
2. "Fairfax Co. registrar fired days before midterm primary," WTOP, June 1, 2018, https://wtop.com/fairfax-county/2018/06/fairfax-co-registrar-fired-days-midterm-primary/; "Fired Fairfax Co. elections head sues after drug charges dropped," WTOP, June 12, 2019, https://wtop.com/fairfax-county/2019/06/fired-fairfax-co-elections-head-sues-after-drug-charges-dropped/; "Fairfax Co. registrar to deny voter registrations over concerns with Va. system," WTOP, January 3, 2018, https://wtop.com/fairfax-county/2018/01/fairfax-co-registrar-to-deny-voter-registrations-over-concerns-with-state-system/; "Charlotte registrar quits amid mismanagement claims," South Boston News and Record, December 9, 2021, https://www.sovanow.com/articles/charlotte-registrar-quits-amid-mismanagement-claims/ (last checked December 17, 2021)
3. "Electoral Board Job Description," Virginia Department of Elections, https://www.elections.virginia.gov/media/formswarehouse/local-administration/electoral-board/Electoral-Board-Job-Description.pdf; "State Board of Elections," Secretary of the Commonwealth, https://www.commonwealth.virginia.gov/va-government/boards-and-commissions/comprehensive-board-listing/detail/?id=7CD7C5ED-C4C1-DF11-8337-005056BC7B56; "Youngkin names local GOP official, former aide to Chase, as new state elections commissioner," Richmond Times-Dispatch, March 20, 2022, https://richmond.com/news/state-and-regional/youngkin-names-local-gop-official-former-aide-to-chase-as-new-state-elections-commissioner/article_2d9ee742-742f-5325-9692-562bd65c37fc.html; "SB 371 Elections, State Board of; expands membership, appointment of Commissioner of Elections," Legislative Information Syatem, Virginia General Assembly, 2022, https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?ses=221&typ=bil&val=SB371 (last checked April 8, 2022)
4. "Compensation of General Registrars," Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission, Senate Document No.5, 1992, http://jlarc.virginia.gov/pdfs/reports/Rpt130.pdf; "General registrars will get higher salaries, but will have to wait on a new pay scale," Virginia Mercury, February 28, 2019, https://www.virginiamercury.com/2019/02/28/general-registrars-will-get-higher-salaries-but-will-have-to-wait-on-a-new-pay-scale/; "Chair of Hampton Electoral Board accused of racist post resigns," WAVY, April 8, 2022, https://www.wavy.com/news/investigative/chair-of-hampton-electoral-board-accused-of-racist-posts-called-upon-to-resign/; Facebook post by Republican Party of Hampton (VA), April 8, 2022, https://www.facebook.com/RepublicanPartyOfHamptonva/posts/348890067280400; "Hampton official formally removed after racist Facebook post surfaces," Daily Press, April 13, 2022, https://www.pressreader.com/usa/daily-press/20220413/281535114528096 (last checked April 15, 2022)
5. "Title 24.2. Elections - Chapter 3. Election Districts, Precincts, and Polling Places - Article 3. Requirements for Election Districts, Precincts, and Polling Places - - 24.2-310. Requirements for polling places," Code of Virginia, https://law.lis.virginia.gov/vacode/title24.2/chapter3/section24.2-310/; "Title 24.2. Elections - Chapter 3. Election Districts, Precincts, and Polling Places - Article 3. Requirements for Election Districts, Precincts, and Polling Places - - 24.2-307. Requirements for county and city precincts," Code of Virginia, https://law.lis.virginia.gov/vacode/title24.2/chapter3/section24.2-307/ (last checked January 4, 2018)
6. "Some state Senate races splitting precinct lines," Daily Progress, October 29, 2019, https://www.dailyprogress.com/election/some-state-senate-races-splitting-precinct-lines/article_c12619e9-80e3-50d7-8051-81f658ee2348.html (last checked October 31, 2019)
7. Senate Bill No. 740 (SB 740), Virginia General Assembly, 2020, http://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?201+ful+SB740H1 (last checked March 14, 2020)
8. "Working at the Polls," Fairfax County, https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/elections/election-officers/working; "Election Officer Manual," Fairfax County, April 2016, p.42, https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/elections/sites/elections/files/assets/election-officer-training/eotm_final_april2016.pdf; "Fairfax Co. projects up to 90% turnout for 2020 election," WTOP, December 6, 2019, https://wtop.com/fairfax-county/2019/12/fairfax-co-projects-up-to-90-turnout-for-2020-election/ (last checked December 8, 2019)
9. "Report: High turnout, large precincts drove long lines in 2012 in Pr. William," Washington Post, June 13, 2013, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/virginia-politics/report-high-turnout-large-precincts-drove-long-lines-in-2012-in-pr-william/2013/06/13/85f0aa6e-d449-11e2-a73e-826d299ff459_story.html (last checked November 1, 2018)
10. "Operations and Performance of Virginia's Department of Elections," Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission, September 10, 2018, p.22, http://jlarc.virginia.gov/pdfs/reports/Rpt508.pdf (last checked November 30, 2019)
11. "Voting irregularity found in controversial 94th District election," Daily Press, May 10, 2018, http://www.dailypress.com/news/politics/dp-nws-94th-ballots-20180510-story.html; "Va. election officials assigned 26 voters to the wrong district. It might've cost Democrats a pivotal race," Washington Post, May 13, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/virginia-politics/voters-assigned-to-wrong-districts-may-have-cost-democrats-in-pivotal-virginia-race/2018/05/13/09a9dd8a-5465-11e8-a551-5b648abe29ef_story.html (last checked May 14, 2018)
12. Code of Virginia, Title 1. Administration - Agency 20. State Board of Elections - Chapter 40. Voter Registration - 1VAC20-40-30. Presumptions, https://law.lis.virginia.gov/admincode/title1/agency20/chapter40/section30/ (last checked November 1, 2018)
13. "Map errors determines some Pittsylvania Co. voters were misassigned," WSET, November 29, 2018, https://wset.com/news/local/map-errors-determines-some-pittsylvania-co-voters-were-misassigned (last checked December 1, 2018)
14. "Caroline to adjust its boundary with neighboring Essex county," Free Lance-Star, November 23, 2018, https://www.fredericksburg.com/news/local/caroline/caroline-to-adjust-its-boundary-with-neighboring-essex-county/article_903dbb86-c838-5e66-a358-afcbc2e1ec2c.html (last checked November 27, 2018)
15. "Paper ballots make a comeback in Virginia this fall," Washington Post, October 7, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/virginia-politics/paper-ballots-make-a-comeback-in-virginia-this-fall/2017/10/07/724106ec-a92b-11e7-850e-2bdd1236be5d_story.html (last checked November 21, 2018)
16. "Chapter 13 Provisional Ballots," the Handbook, Virginia State Board of Elections, August 2020, https://www.elections.virginia.gov/media/grebhandbook/2020-individual-chapters/13_Provisional_Ballots_(2020).pdf; "Chapter 14 Canvass," the Handbook, Virginia State Board of Elections, October 2019, https://www.elections.virginia.gov/media/grebhandbook/archives/2019-chapters/individual-chapters/14_Canvass_10-19.pdf(last checked November 8, 2021)
17. "Election night mistake changes vote margins - but not outcomes - in Prince William-area House of Delegates' races," Prince William Times, November 4, 2021, https://www.princewilliamtimes.com/news/election-night-mistake-changes-vote-margins-but-not-outcomes-in-prince-william-area-house-of/article_0bc2a07e-3d74-11ec-9ed8-4f6c4133189d.html; "Election official: Vote count correction changes result of Christiansburg council race," The Roanoke Times, November 6, 2021, The Virginian-Pilot, November 8, 2021, https://www.pilotonline.com/government/elections/dp-nw-mugler-county-20211108-hcr5errchnhvvknqyafomwtqgi-story.html (last checked November 9, 2021)
18. "With judges' ruling in recount, GOP cements two-seat majority in Virginia House of Delegates," Washington Post, December 8, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/dc-md-va/2021/12/08/virginia-house-recount-mugler-cordoza-gop/; "Virginia Beach House of Delegates race called for Republican after recount, giving GOP the majority," Washington Post, December 3, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/dc-md-va/2021/12/03/virginia-house-recount-majority/; "2021 November General - General Assembly," Virginia Department of Elections, https://results.elections.virginia.gov/vaelections/2021%20November%20General/Site/GeneralAssembly.html (last checked December 16, 2021) 19. "Minutes," State Board of Elections, January 8, 2016, p.19, https://www.elections.virginia.gov/Files/Media/Agendas/2016/20160108Minutes.pdf; "Prince William Electoral Board chair under investigation, may lose job," InsideNOVA, January 8, 2016, https://www.insidenova.com/headlines/prince-william-electoral-board-chair-under-investigation-may-lose-job/article_d00ff976-b6e4-11e5-a24e-63715e17f125.html ; "Misconduct at the PWC Electoral Board - Part 1," Prince William Muckraker blog, March 31, 2016, http://princewilliammuckraker.com/2016/03/guiffre-lawson-electoral-board/; "Big changes coming for Prince William County voters," InsideNOVA, July 26, 2013, https://www.insidenova.com/news/politics/big-changes-coming-for-prince-william-county-voters/article_d7fddad6-f4b8-11e2-8591-0019bb2963f4.html; "Report of the Bi-Partisan Election Task Force to the Prince William County Board of County Supervisors," May 22, 2013, http://www.pwcgov.org/government/bocs/Documents/Signed%20Final%20Recommendation%20Report.pdf (last checked September 21, 2018)
20. "Capital letters removed but questions linger," Progress-Index, August 23 2018, http://www.progress-index.com/news/20180823/capital-letters-removed-but-questions-linger; "State Board of Elections will ask for ouster of two Hopewell Electoral Board members," Progress-Index, September 20, 2018, http://www.progress-index.com/news/20180920/state-board-of-elections-will-ask-for-ouster-of-two-hopewell-electoral-board-members; "Petitions Filed Tuesday To Remove Hopewell Electoral Board Members," Progress-Index, October 11, 2018, http://www.progress-index.com/news/20181010/petitions-filed-tuesday-to-remove-hopewell-electoral-board-members; "Court action on Hopewell Electoral Board delayed," Progress-Index, October 22, 2018, http://www.progress-index.com/news/20181022/court-action-on-hopewell-electoral-board-delayed; "Jury finds Hopewell Electoral Board members negligent; removes them," The Progress-Index, March 1, 2019, https://www.progress-index.com/news/20190301/jury-finds-hopewell-electoral-board-members-negligent-removes-them; "Hopewell coming to grips with registrar's ouster," Progress-Index, March 7, 2019, https://www.progress-index.com/news/20190307/hopewell-coming-to-grips-with-registrars-ouster; "Electoral boards likely to retain authority to fire registrars," InsideNOVA, March 29, 2019, https://www.insidenova.com/news/arlington/electoral-boards-likely-to-retain-authority-to-fire-registrars/article_4caafc4c-5179-11e9-a5bf-779a51685bfb.html; "Judge Dismisses Former Hopewell Registrar's Lawsuit Against Electoral Board," Richmond Times-Dispatch, January 31, 2020, https://www.richmond.com/news/plus/judge-dismisses-former-hopewell-registrar-s-lawsuit-against-electoral-board/article_002b1992-e236-51ad-8f55-b0dbbca77804.html (last checked January 31, 2020)
21. "Three Hopewell City Councilors, including mayor, lose," Richmond Times-Dispatch, November 7, 2018, https://www.richmond.com/news/local/city-of-richmond/three-hopewell-city-councilors-including-mayor-lose/article_52514fc3-ab0b-51ef-8d4a-a5e2d4a75f5a.html (last checked November 7, 2019)
22. "Richmond registrar: No hearing on Agelasto voter registration status," Richmond Times-Dispatch, December 10, 2018, https://www.richmond.com/news/local/city-of-richmond/richmond-registrar-no-hearing-on-agelasto-voter-registration-status/article_ee029a2a-7f8c-5893-aa74-4b66f920dc57.html (last checked December 12, 2018)

General Registrars are responsible for preparation of pollbooks used by poll workers (Officers of Election) to process voters
General Registrars are responsible for preparation of pollbooks used by poll workers (Officers of Election) to process voters
Source: Fairfax County, Election Officer Manual (April 2016, p.105)


Virginia Government and Virginia Politics
Virginia Places