Virginia lawmakers punt on bills aimed at limiting partisan election oversight

Voters cast ballots at Main Street Station in Richmond in 2020
Voters cast ballots at Main Street Station in Richmond in 2020(Ned Oliver, Virginia Mercury)
Published: Jul. 1, 2022 at 8:51 AM EDT
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Despite getting several extra months to negotiate, Virginia lawmakers went home for the summer without a deal on proposals to limit partisan influence in the state’s election bureaucracy.

Legislation that would have removed the governor’s power to appoint the state elections commissioner and given the two major parties equal representation on the State Board of Elections effectively died for lack of a final vote. The General Assembly didn’t take up two pending bills on the topic when lawmakers met in Richmond this month to finish work on the state budget, which was supposed to be done in March.

All the bills left unfinished are technically still alive because the General Assembly adjourned its special session to Sept. 7, a move explained as a way to take action later on an unfilled seat on the State Corporation Commission. But anything not approved at this point is effectively dead, said Garren Shipley, a spokesman for House of Delegates Speaker Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah.

“The remaining conference reports, while they are still technically viable until the session adjourns sine die, are unlikely to move forward,” Shipley said.

It’s unclear exactly what caused the talks to fail, but the state elections board flipped to Republican control during the negotiations due to the resignation of a Democratic member who had been appointed to a judgeship. While the bills were pending, Gov. Glenn Youngkin swapped out the state’s former elections commissioner, Chris Piper, for his own appointee, Susan Beals, a former Republican member of the Chesterfield County Electoral Board.

“I got the impression that the House lost interest,” said Sen. Adam Ebbin, D-Alexandria, who chairs the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee.

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NBC12 is a partner with The Virginia Mercury, an independent, nonprofit online news...
NBC12 is a partner with The Virginia Mercury, an independent, nonprofit online news organization covering state government and policy.(Virginia Mercury)

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