Privileges and Elections Committee (Senate)

Privileges and Elections Committee 2

Summary

Meets on: Tuesday at 15 minutes after adjournment in Senate Room 3, The Capitol

Members: Creigh Deeds (Chair)  –  John Bell – Jennifer Boysko – Adam Ebbin –  Janet Howell – Monty Mason   Jennifer McClellan  –  Ryan McDougle – Mark Peake – Bryce Reeves –  Frank Ruff – Lionell Spruill – Scott Surovell   – Jill Vogel

(9 Democrats and 5 Republicans)

Subcommittees: None

 

News

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Privileges and Elections bills passed by General Assembly
Virginia Legislative Information System

Note: Details on bills passed below are in the Heading “Bills passed”)

  • SB 1097: Absentee voting; witness signature not required
  • SB 1111: Elections; preservation of order at the polls, powers of officers of election
  • SB 1148: Elections; date of June primary election
  • SB 1239: Absentee voting; third-party absentee ballot assembly and distribution
  • SB 1245: Absentee voting; establishment of drop-off locations preprocessing returned absentee ballots
  • SB 1281: General registrar; qualifications, residency
  • SB 1331: Absentee voting; accessibility for voters with a visual impairment or print disability
  • SB 1395: Discrimination; prohibited in voting and elections administration, etc
  • SJ 270: Constitutional amendment; marriage (first reference)
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Privileges and Elections 2021 Hearings
Virginia Senate Live Session Video Stream

Standing Committee: 1/19  1/26  2/4 2/16

Lawmakers kill bill calling for transparency in redistricting commission
NBC29.com, Anya SczerzenieFebruary 19, 2021 (Short)

RICHMOND, Va. — The Virginia Senate killed a House proposal to expand access to the commonwealth’s new redistricting commission and help make the process more transparent and democratic.

House Bill 2082, patroned by Del. Mark Levine, D-Alexandria, would have required the redistricting commission meetings to be advertised and accessible to the public. The commission will draw the commonwealth’s electoral districts every 10 years. The General Assembly previously drew the districts.

The bill was passed by indefinitely in the Senate Privileges and Elections committee after passing the House with a 55-41 vote.

“During the debates on the commission, I kept saying ‘There’s no transparency here, there’s no transparency,’” Levine said. “Well, there wasn’t, and there isn’t. Without my legislation, the commission can meet in a dark room.

“If something as simple as avoiding the appearance of corruption in Virginia can’t pass, then we must seriously consider whether we have the right people representing us,” said Clean Virginia Executive Director Brennan Gilmore. “This bill would have caught Virginia up to 47 other states and the federal government. Yet, despite the bill conforming to widely accepted federal language, a majority of Virginia’s Senators couldn’t get the job done.”

The bill, introduced by Delegate Marcus Simon, passed the House unanimously on Feb. 1. HB 1952 defined “personal use” using the federal “irrespective test,” which states that any expense incurred that would exist irrespective of the candidate’s campaign for office is deemed ineligible for use of campaign funds, with the exception for childcare expenses.

The motion to refer the bill back to the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee occurred against the expressed wishes of Senator Creigh Deeds, the Committee Chair, who asked on the floor that Senators pass the bill instead.

Virginia Senate panel advances campaign finance reform bill
Tulsa World, Sarah RankinFebruary 16, 2021 (Short)

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A Virginia Senate committee advanced a House measure Tuesday that would prevent politicians from putting campaign funds toward personal uses, with an exception for child care-related expenses.

The bill’s continued advancement this year seems to be a breakthrough on an issue lawmakers have previously been reluctant to tackle. Virginia has one of the least restrictive and policed campaign finance systems in the country, with lawmakers only barred from using campaign funds for personal use once they close out their accounts.

The measure’s sponsor, Democratic Del. Marcus Simon, said the matter is one of both optics and integrity.

During a legislative hearing, Locke said voting is a fundamental right that shouldn’t be taken away, and argued that the policy’s racist origins should be addressed by scrapping it completely. A coalition of civil rights groups backed Locke’s proposal.

It was ultimately amended to mirror a proposal from the House that would automatically restore voting rights for people who complete their prison sentences. House Majority Leader Charniele Herring, D-Alexandria, introduced that resolution.
“Automatic restoration of rights is not racial justice,” Locke said before the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee on Feb. 4. “It is beyond dispute that felony disenfranchisement is as Jim Crow as poll taxes.

About

From Senate Rules: “A Committee on Privileges and Elections, 15 Senators, to consider matters concerning voting; apportionment; conflict of interests, except those concerning members of the judiciary or solely the legal profession, provided that any such matter, after being reported by the Committee, shall be rereferred by the Committee to the Committee for Courts of Justice for consideration of the matters relating only to members of the judiciary or solely to the legal profession; constitutional amendments; elections; elected officeholders; reprimand, censure, or expulsion of a Senator; and nominations and appointments to any office or position in the Commonwealth (except Justices and Judges of the Commonwealth).”.

It shall consider all grievances and propositions, federal relations and interstate matters. It shall examine the oath taken by each Senator and the certificate of election furnished by the proper office and report thereon to the Senate. It shall review and report as may be required in cases involving financial disclosure statements and shall recommend disciplinary action by majority vote where appropriate. It shall report in all cases involving contested elections the principles and reasons upon which their resolves are founded. It shall determine and report on all matters referred to it by the Senate Ethics Advisory Panel as set forth in the statutes.Whenever the Clerk receives a report of the Senate Ethics Advisory Panel or a resolution seeking the reprimand, censure, or expulsion of a Senator, the report shall be referred forthwith to the Committee on Privileges and Elections. The Committee shall consider the matter, conduct such hearings as it shall deem necessary, and, in all cases report its determination of the matter, together with its recommendations and reasons for its resolves, to the Senate. If the Committee deems disciplinary action warranted, it shall report a resolution offered by a member of the Committee to express such action. Any such resolution reported by the Committee shall be a privileged matter. The Senate as a whole shall then consider the resolution, and, by recorded vote, either defeat the resolution or take one or more of the following actions: (i) reprimand the Senator with a majority vote of the Senators present and voting; (ii) censure the Senator and place the Senator last in seniority with a majority vote of the elected membership of the Senate; (iii) expel the Senator with a two-thirds vote of the elected membership of the Senate; or (iv) refer the matter to the Attorney General f or appropriate action with a majority vote of the Senators present and voting, in the event the Senate finds a knowing violation of § 30-108 or subsection C of § 30-110 of the Code of Virginia

Web

VA Legislative Information Systems (LIS)

Bills

Bills in committee  

(none at this time)

Bills reported out 

SB 1097: Provides that a voter’s failure to have a witness sign the absentee ballot envelope for any election held during a declared state of emergency related to a communicable disease of public health threat shall not be considered a material omission and shall not render the ballot void. 

SB 1109: Provides for a statewide referendum on the question of whether the General Assembly shall issue state general obligation bonds in the amount of $3 billion for the purpose of K-12 school building construction, repair, or other capital projects related to the modernization of school facilities.

SB 1111: Removes the power of officers of election, in the event that no law-enforcement officer is in attendance, to appoint a person who is not a law-enforcement officer to have all the powers of a law enforcement officer within the polling place and the prohibited area.

SB 1148: Changes the date of the primary election held in June from the second Tuesday in June to the third Tuesday in June.

SB 1153: Provides that absentee ballots processed at a central absentee precinct must be sorted by the precinct to which the voter who cast the absentee ballot is assigned and that the resulting vote totals from such ballots must be reported separately for each voter precinct.

SB 1239: Permits a general registrar to contract with a third party for the printing, assembly, and mailing of absentee ballots.

SB 1245: Requires certain actions to be taken to process absentee ballots returned before the day of an election, including verifying the correct completion of the voter affirmation statement, and provides for an opportunity for an absentee voter to make corrections to the statement in certain circumstances.

SB 1246: Requires certain actions to be taken to process absentee ballots that are returned by mail before election day.

SB 1281: Exempts counties and cities with a population of 50,000 or less from the requirement that a person appointed to serve as a general registrar must be a qualified voter of the county or city for which he is appointed. 

SB 1331: Requires the Department of Elections to make available to all localities a tool to allow voters with a visual impairment or print disability to electronically and accessibly receive and mark his absentee ballot using screen reader assistive technology.

SB 1395: Prohibits any voting qualification or any standard, practice, or procedure related to voting from being imposed or applied in a manner that results in the denial or abridgment of the right of any United States citizen to vote based on his race or color or membership in a language minority group.

SB 1422: Requires the State Registrar of Vital Records to transmit to the Department of Elections a weekly list of decedents from the previous week. 

SB 1444: Changes the reporting requirement from any single contribution of $1,000 or more to all financial activity of a campaign committee of a candidate for a statewide office or the General Assembly knowingly received or reported by the candidate or his treasurer on behalf of his candidacy during the period beginning January 1 and ending on the day immediately before the first day of a regular session of the General Assembly to be reported to the State Board of Elections not later than January 15

SJ 270: Repeals the constitutional provision defining marriage as only a union between one man and one woman as well as the related provisions that are no longer valid as a result of the United States Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. 644 (2015).

SJ 272: Establishes that a person who meets the constitutional qualifications for voters has the fundamental right to vote and that such right cannot be abridged by law, except in the case of persons convicted of a felony and persons adjudicated to lack the capacity to understand the act of voting.

SJ 275: Requires the General Assembly to provide for a system of public schools in the Commonwealth with equitable educational opportunities for all children and to ensure that all school-age children are provided with equitable educational opportunities.

SJ 289: Allows easements on public property to be granted in perpetuity to a public body, political subdivision, or authority of the Commonwealth or to the United States of America or any of its departments or agencies. 

SJ 310: Amends the Constitution of Virginia to provide that a regular session of the General Assembly convened in an odd-numbered year shall continue for no longer than 46 days and may be extended for a period not exceeding 14 days. 

SJ 322: Requests the Secretary of Administration to oversee and develop a charter and directives for the State Board of Elections to form a working group to study the implementation of electronic return of voted military-overseas ballots.

Bills Passed

  • SB 1097: Absentee voting; witness signature not required
    Provides that a voter’s failure to have a witness sign the absentee ballot envelope for any election held during a declared state of emergency related to a communicable disease of public health threat shall not be considered a material omission and shall not render the ballot void. The bill directs the Department of Elections to convene a work group to consider and evaluate alternatives to the witness signature requirement for election officials to use to verify that an absentee ballot was cast by the voter identified as having requested and received such ballot.
  • SB 1111: Elections; preservation of order at the polls, powers of officers of election
    Removes the power of officers of election, in the event that no law-enforcement officer is in attendance, to appoint a person who is not a law-enforcement officer to have all the powers of a law-enforcement officer within the polling place and the prohibited area.
  • SB 1148: Elections; date of June primary election
    Changes the date of the primary election held in June from the second Tuesday in June to the third Tuesday in June. The bill also changes candidate filing deadlines to reflect the change of date.
  • SB 1239: Absentee voting; third-party absentee ballot assembly and distribution
    Permits a general registrar to contract with a third party for the printing, assembly, and mailing of absentee ballots. The bill directs the State Board of Elections to adopt emergency regulations to implement the provisions of the bill and for those regulations to include processes to ensure secure and timely delivery of voter information to contractors and reports of mailed absentee ballots from contractors.
  • SB 1245: Absentee voting; establishment of drop-off locations preprocessing returned absentee ballots
    Requires certain actions to be taken to process absentee ballots returned before the day of an election, including verifying the correct completion of the voter affirmation statement, and provides for an opportunity for an absentee voter to make corrections to the statement in certain circumstances. The bill requires the establishment of drop-off locations. Additionally, a central absentee voter precinct is required to be established in each locality; currently, establishment is optional. On the day of the election, officers of election are required to begin processing absentee ballots in the central absentee voter precincts prior to the close of polls, but no ballot vote counts are permitted to be transmitted outside of the central absentee voter precinct prior to the close of polls; a violation of such prohibition is a Class 1 misdemeanor. The bill requires a ballot marking tool with screen reader assistive technology to be made available for absentee voters with a print disability. The Department of Elections is directed to convene a work group to consider and evaluate methods for sorting absentee ballots by precinct and reporting absentee ballot totals by precincts.
  • SB 1281: General registrar; qualifications, residency
    Exempts counties and cities with a population of 50,000 or less from the requirement that a person appointed to serve as a general registrar must be a qualified voter of the county or city for which he is appointed. Currently, such exemption applies to counties and cities with a population of 25,000 or less.
  • SB 1331: Absentee voting; accessibility for voters with a visual impairment or print disability
    Requires the Department of Elections to make available to all localities a tool to allow voters with a visual impairment or print disability to electronically and accessibly receive and mark absentee ballots using screen reader assistive technology. On receipt of an application for an absentee ballot from an applicant who indicates that he will require assistance due to a visual impairment or print disability, the general registrar is required to offer to provide to the applicant the ballot marking tool with screen reader assistive technology.
  • SB 1395: Discrimination; prohibited in voting and elections administration, etc
    Prohibits any voting qualification or any standard, practice, or procedure related to voting from being imposed or applied in a manner that results in the denial or abridgment of the right of any United States citizen to vote based on his race or color or membership in a language minority group. The bill further prohibits at-large methods of election from being imposed or applied in a locality in a manner that impairs the ability of a protected class, defined in the bill, to elect candidates of its choice or to influence the outcome of an election, by diluting or abridging the rights of voters who are members of a protected class. Prior to enacting or administering a covered practice, defined in the bill, the governing body of a locality is required to publish the proposed covered practice and accept public comment for a minimum of 30 days on the proposed covered practice; after the public comment period, a 30-day waiting period is required. During this period, any person who will be subject to or affected by the covered practice may challenge the covered practice as (i) having the purpose or effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on the basis of race or color or membership in a language minority group or (ii) resulting in the retrogression in the position of members of a racial or ethnic group with respect to their effective exercise of the electoral franchise. The bill permits the local governing body to instead submit the proposed covered practice to the Office of the Attorney General for issuance of a certification of no objection and, once such certification is issued, to enact or administer the covered practice. Certain unlawful actions, including knowingly communicating false information to voters, that are currently subject to criminal penalties will create civil causes of action under the bill. The bill authorizes the Attorney General to commence civil actions when there is reasonable cause to believe that a violation of an election law has occurred and the rights of any voter or group of voters have been affected by the violation. Civil penalties assessed as a result of such action are payable to the Voter Education and Outreach Fund, established by the bill. Current provisions related to language minority accessibility are moved to a newly created chapter relating to the rights of voters.
  • SJ 270: Constitutional amendment; marriage (first reference)
    Repeals the constitutional provision defining marriage as only a union between one man and one woman as well as the related provisions that are no longer valid as a result of the United States Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. 644 (2015). The amendment provides that the right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of persons and requires the Commonwealth and its political subdivisions and agents to issue marriage licenses, recognize marriages, and treat all marriages equally under the law, regardless of the sex or gender of the parties to the marriage. Religious organizations and clergy acting in their religious capacity have the right to refuse to perform any marriage.

Commissions

Commission on Civic Education

Source: Webpage

The purposes of the Commission are to (i) educate students on the importance of citizen involvement in a representative democracy, (ii) promote the study of state and local government among the Commonwealth’s citizenry, and (iii) enhance communication and collaboration among organizations in the Commonwealth that conduct civics education.

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      Scott Joy
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    • #26880
      Nanayaa Obeng
      Participant

      Senate Bill 1395 removes any form of discrimination against voters which is great because it will ensure that elections are free of any forms of bias and voters from all communities will be able to have their voices be heard.

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