09 Nov 2011
November 9, 2011

Hitting the Canvass

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In Virginia, elections  don’t end on election day.   After the polls close at 7 pm, the precinct poll workers count their ballots and report the results to the local registrar, who forwards the information to the State Board of Elections (SBE), which then posts the results here.  (With varying degrees of accuracy, and last night, not so much.)  The next day (today), each local Electoral Board (currently two Republican and one Democratic appointee), conducts a canvass and forwards the official results to the SBE.  The local board reviews the “provisional ballots” filed on election day, and decides which, if any to count.  The Board then reviews the paperwork from each precinct to check the number of available ballots and used or voided ballots, see if the numbers from the poll  books and machines match, and make sure that the candidate totals are correctly recorded.

For more than 20 years, the Democratic Party of Virginia Protect and Promote the Vote program has used volunteer attorneys to answer questions and resolve problems on election day, and then monitor canvasses to prepare for potential challenges or recounts.  Yesterday, we spent the 13 hour day working to get people to the right polling place; alert officials to closed polling places, malfunctioning voting machines, and abusive poll workers; move police cars; banish white (but not sufficiently off-white) sample ballots, and otherwise help voters.  We then headed to the DPVA party in Fairfax to watch the results and keep in contact with folks around the state to see which wednesday canvasses would require special attention.  Early in the evening, it looked like Roscoe Reynold’s race might be critical, but then it was clear that the 17th Senate District, represented so well by Senator Edd Houck, also needed coverage.  So we spread out this morning to cover those canvasses.

I spent today in Fredericksbug – I have done several canvasses and have always been impressed by the professionalism and courtesy of the electoral boards and registrar’s offices.  We noted several issues, but the numbers generally tracked the earlier reported results.  At the end of the day, Sen. Houck obtained one additional absentee vote and 4 of 6 provisional votes.  Now we wait for the additional results to see if the next steps – a recount and/or challenge – is merited.

There are many productive ways to spend election day helping elect Democrats, but we are always looking for lawyers and others to help with protecting and promoting the vote.  With the 2012 Presidential elections, we will need a much larger group, so please consider joining us.