One of the most important issues in the age of SARS-CoV-2 is voting access when polling places are such potential vectors for disease. Last week, I was past of a phone town hall with State Senator Barbara Favola. I was very happy to learn that Governor Ralph Northam is considering holding a special session of the General Assembly this September to ask the them to vote on universal vote-by-mail. This is something Virginia needs! After all, it already works very well in Washington, Oregon, Utah, Colorado, and Hawaii.
Delegate Price agrees. She has stood with me on a number of other important non-partisan voting rights bills, such as the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact and two bills to develop a non-partisan way of generating legislative districts. Another bill would have set up a nonpartisan redistricting commission. The committee would have begun as soon as one July, to start the process of determining the 2021 districts. Unfortunately, that bill failed. However, she was able to pass legislation which made most forms of packing and cracking illegal while still protecting the spirit of the Voting Rights Act.
Now it remains to see if we can give Virginia a more streamlined vote-by-mail process. The main issue is to remove the onerous signature requirement. Also, as Tran points out, we need to make sure folks who are visually impaired can vote. If people change residences without informing the Commonwealth, they shouldn’t be dropped from the voting rolls. We also need to consider people who are just used to voting in person on election day. One solution is to maintain opened polling locations on election day, but by default allow everyone to vote-by-mail with no signature nor an excuse, and not dropping anyone because the voting invitation mail bounces.
Or, if we do still need a signature, I suppose I could ask my voting buddy Rachel to take care of mine, as I take care of hers.
I’m live right now with Delegate Cia Price and Tram Nguyen, Co-executive Director of New Virginia Majority, to talk…
Tis another somber day in Richmond today. But please know, hope is far but all lost. We fought, we spoke, and the esteemed Chariman Deeds was very kind to us all (he would have made a most excellent—and lawabiding—Governor!)
I met Eileen Reavey at the Senate Committee Meeting Room 3 as the Senate was still in Virginia Session. Pam, Nancy, and all my fellow NPVIC: Virginia advocates were there and we watched with anticipation for the Committee Meeting to begin.
I was shocked, though, to see a number of luddite Anti-Vaccine women who have clearly been watching porn-star videos and disbarred British researchers far too much to understand the basics concepts of Herd Immunity and Correlation does not mean Causation. They were apparently there to taunt us NPVIC folks but we would not be intimidated. We knew we had right and logic on our side.
Eventually, the Senate Floor session the Senators started assembling. My dear friend Sen. Jennifer Barton Boysko was one of the first to appear and of course we waved at each other. Finally, my good friend Delegate Mark Levine showed up, and we supporters all gathered around to take a photo together.
Senator Deeds moved the committee along and as promised HB177: the NPVIC, was second on the docket. Mark, the chief patron, spoke first, and then Senator Janet Howell (Reston) made a motion to pass the committee. Senator Deeds stopped the motion, though, as he knew members of the public wanted to speak. The order was somewhat random but I got to deliver my years speech, which Deeds already knew, then went into my comparison of Bristol VA, vs. Bristol TN, and how although at the state and legislative level these two communities were divided, at the national level, they are a common interest gerrymandered and the solution is the NPVIC.
Senator Deeds then asked me what happens in the case of a tie, and I explained to him that only those states which were close would be required to recount. Any state that wasn’t close would not recount. And in the case of an absolute tie, say 65,321,865 to 65,321,865, then what happens is the NPVIC is dissolved for that election and each state goes back to its old way of choosing electors—typically winner take all.
One of the speakers was from Falls Church and she and her husband came to troll the hearing. They both sat in seats reserved for delegates which demonstrated them clearly as having no sense of decorum or decency. Add to that, they had the temerity to take some of the things I have said, on the NPVIC Page on Facebook, as chief moderator, completely out of context.
For instance, when I call the NPVIC a Beta Test, I do not mean it is a questionable movement that is merely a joke or that it indicates some weakness. On the contrary, when I say that what I mean is, we are very certain of our goals and the expected results, but if we’re wrong, it’s easy to repeal, while repealing a Constitutional Amendment is hard.
I could not defend my statements but Eileen helpfully was able to clarify that neither her organization, nor the official organization, was associated with them. The Grassroots Page I run, as well as our Twitter feed, @NPVGrassroots are personal interest resources used to recruit, defend, and explain the NPVIC in a friendly, rapid-response way. I hone my skills there in being able to think quickly to defend against any argument to the NPVIC and have become quite adept at addressing every concern for it, having even amicably sparred with @TaraRoss, famous anti-NPVIC debater, herself.
In the end, Mark wanted a chance to address all the detractors, but Jennifer Boysko had a quiet word with him and in the end, though Senator Jill Vogel tried to get the bill tabled, Jennifer, realizing they didn’t have the votes, made a motion to pass by until the 2021 session. Jennifer was nice enough to message me on Facebook that she was doing that but Eileen and I had already discussed the possibility so it wasn’t a surprise. But it was very nice for Jennifer to come down and tell me herself in person.
Overall, the NPVIC in Virginia may be dead in 2020, but we have a better chance in 2021, after the election is over, and we still hold out hope for Florida!
Though Eileen, Pam, Nancy, and Mark left after the vote, I was in Richmond for two more bills. Namely, Delegate Cia Price‘s HB1255 (proper Gerrymandering protections which are tragically absent from the Virginia Constitutional Amendment) and HB1256 (sets up a commission similar to the Amendment). HB1255 was sent to the Finance Committee without Amendment.
Finally, it was HB1256’s turn. Unfortunately, Senator Jennifer McClellen had spoken with legal staff and raised the issue that, if the flawed Redistricting Amendment didn’t pass, HB1256 would be null and void. Cia didn’t like this but McClellen insisted the bill be amended to work with the Amendment before it went to Finance. Cia was not happy, and neither was I.
I spoke to Cia afterwards to try and assure her that as long as McClellen’s amendment addressed the Redistricting Amendment, should that pass, but preserved HB1256 in its entirety should it not pass, that we should still support it and keep fighting that troublesome Redistricting Amendment. Senator Howell is chair of Senate Finance and as many of my friend are her constituents, I will be asking all of them to insist she make sure McClellen’s Amendment leaves HB1256 unchanged with no Amendment and works with the Amendment if it does, unfortunately pass.
The good news is that none of these bills are dead. We will have a chance on Thursday to see if we can get as pure an HB1256 as possible and get HB1255 out of committee as well, and next year, we will be adding Virginia to the NPVIC!
The game was rather fun and I played for the Conservative side just because often times when I am debating the NPVIC I debate it from the Conservative perspective to better explain it to folks who lean that way.
The reason we were playing was to introduce the issues with Virginia HJ71, which allows a party line vote to veto the committee maps for districts and send it to the Virginia Supreme Court with no constitutional protections against Gerrymandering. Mark’s bills to give us a better options were merged into Delegate Cia Price‘s bills HB1256 and HB1255, which set up a citizen’s committee and also provide Gerrymandering protections. Both bills will be before the Virginia Senate Privileges and Elections Committee tomorrow. I would have liked to attend that meeting, especially as HB177 is on the Docket as well, which is the NPVIC bill, but it’s unlikely HB177 will be heard tomorrow and I have some work things I need to take care of.
In any case, I very much enjoy the game I played with Mark moderating and am considering buying the game for myself.