RICHMOND, Va. — For a second time, a delegate is proposing legislation to reform the State Board of Elections.
HB1620 was pre-filed Tuesday. The non-partisan administrative group currently has three members. The bill would increase this to six. They would be appointed by the Governor and there would be an even number of members from the two major political parties.
The appointees would also have the power to pick the Department of Elections Commissioner as well as remove them from the position. Currently, the commissioner is selected by the Governor.
The legislation comes weeks after JLARC released a study that found political bias in the relationship between the board, department and the previous commissioner. One of the recommendations from this was also incorporated into the bill, eliminating two additional senior-level political appointees made by the governor and install a full-time Director of Operations.
That’s one of the reasons why Del. Margaret Ransone (R – District 99) has filed this type of legislation again after it passed the House of Delegates in the 2018 session. It didn’t gain more support by the end of session.
Ransone says she wants to make sure no politics is involved in the board or department.
“I think it’s important that voters feel confident when they go to the polls. That elections are carried out in a non-partisan fashion,” she said.
When it comes to the commissioner, Del. Ransone says the person in that position should have support from the whole board.
“I think it’s very important that the commissioner actually goes through a job interview process, and the Democrats and the Republicans together on that board make sure that they’re well qualified. That the commission is there long-term,” she added.
After the State Board of Elections meeting today, Chairman James Alcorn addressed the proposal.
“The structure of the state board was changed just before I joined the board four years ago. So that was a conversation that we had as board members with the administration and with members of the Department of Elections about what that should look like. At times, that was challenging as shown in the recently released JLARC report,” he said.
Alcorn says “he’s glad the legislature is looking into this.”
“I don’t know if changing the board or the structure of it will have the positive impacts,” Alcorn explained. “One of the things that I’ve noticed is that changing the individuals helped change that relationship between the board and the department and so that is a great benefit that we’ve seen since last year with the appointment of Christopher Piper.”
The bill would have to pass both houses in the 2019 session to become a law.
Click here to take a look at the bill.