In reversal, Virginia GOP will allow those with religious obligations to vote absentee in May 8 convention

Capitol Connection
Voting-matoca

Voting at Matoaca High School on November 3, 2020. (Photo: Tyler Thrasher)

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The Virginia Republican Party will allow delegates with a religious obligation to vote absentee in the May 8 convention, adopting a proposal Sunday without objection days after members of the party’s governing body went back and forth over the idea.

The Republican State Central Committee reconvened its meeting from last week to review rules for the convention. A majority of the committee voted then to approve an amendment requesting an absentee voting option for Orthodox Jews and others who observe the Sabbath, as the GOP convention is set for a Saturday.

Despite the vote, the amendment failed to garner the supermajority — 75% of the committee — to get adopted into the party’s plan. Republican candidates for Virginia governor expressed their concern and displeasure with the decision, with Del. Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights)Glenn Youngkin and Peter Doran sending out tweets criticizing the effort.

Earlier report: Virginia Republicans won’t allow Orthodox Jews to vote absentee in May 8 convention

Four rabbis urged RPV chairman Rich Anderson and the committee to consider giving those with religious obligations the same absentee voting option the party gives to active duty military members. They wrote a letter earlier this month telling Anderson it would be “impossible” for Orthodox Jews and others who signed up to be delegates in next month’s convention to also observe the Sabbath.

Before the initial ruling last week, members of the Republican SCC had a heated discussion about the implications of not allowing those with a religious obligation from voting and the backlash that would come. There were also accusations of voter suppression between members.

The committee went into a private “executive session” ahead of Sunday’s public meeting, with Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel joining in on the call to urge the panel to provide the absentee voting option, according to multiple people on the private call. A spokeswoman from the RNC told 8News on Tuesday that McDaniel had been on the call and was in support of the change but did not provide any additional details.

Within a few minutes of going over the rules for the convention, Miki Miller, the Virginia GOP’s committee chair for the 3rd Congressional District, proposed an amendment to allow delegates with a religious obligation on May 8 to vote the day before.

The amendment applies to people with religious obligations who have already signed up to be delegates, and they must submit their requests by May 4.

“A certified delegate may certify to the RPV Chairman on a form issued by him that the delegate’s religious obligations forbid him or her from voting during the regular hours that all polling locations will be open,” the amendment states. “Such certifications shall be submitted no later than 5 p.m. on May 4. The RPV Chairman shall direct the Head Teller and respective District Chairman of any polling location to which certifying delegates are assigned by the Head Teller and respective District Chairman from 3 pm to 6 pm on Friday, May 7th.”

After such fierce debate on the subject last Thursday, the motion was seconded quickly and RPV Chairman Rich Anderson asked if anyone wanted to discuss the amendment further. The question was met with silence and the proposal was approved without objection.

“We may consider that motion passed,” Anderson said before moving on.

Following months of uncertainty on which nominating process to choose, committee members agreed to hold what is being referred to as an “unassembled” or “disassembled” convention on May 8. Approved party delegates will go to a designated location within their district on that day to select the party’s nominee for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general. 

They will turn in their ranked-choice ballots, where delegates will list the candidates they support in order, and the candidate who reaches a majority wins the nomination. If a candidate does not reach over 50%, the candidate with the lowest rank will be eliminated and the count will be done again. Candidates will continue to be removed until one reaches a majority.

The committee will reconvene again on May 1 to finalize the plans and rules for the convention.

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