Delegate Margaret Ransone introduces bill to guarantee nonpartisan administration of elections; address concerns found in recent JLARC report

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Delegate Margaret Ransone on Tuesday filed legislation that reforms the State Board of Elections to guarantee the nonpartisan administration of elections in the Commonwealth. Addressing concerns of political bias found in a recent JLARC report, House Bill 1620 increases from three to six the number of members on the Board, requiring three to be from the party that won the most recent gubernatorial election and three from the party receiving the next highest number of votes. This legislation is similar to legislation Delegate Ransone introduced in 2018 which passed the House of Delegates.

“The recent JLARC report was disconcerting when they found the Department was openly supporting one political party over another,” said Delegate Margaret Ransone (R-Westmoreland). “Elections offer an opportunity to choose between candidates and often times a political party but the way elections are administered should never be partisan.”

The bill would give authority to the State Board of Elections to appoint the Commissioner that oversees the Department of Elections, previously a political appointee of the governor.  The legislation also incorporates JLARC’s recommendations to eliminate two additional senior-level political appointees made by the governor and install a full-time Director of Operations to ensure continuity and impartiality.

“Voters should feel confident in the electoral process and trust that elections are conducted in the most transparent way possible. This should be a bipartisan cause that we can all champion,” said Speaker Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights). “We have called out political bias within the Department of Elections since 2016 when Delegate Hugo called for the resignation of the previous commissioner. It’s time to put an end to political bias within Virginia’s elections administration, and I look forward to Democrats and Republicans working together to accomplish this.”

“The fact that an even numbered board could take a tie vote is not a drawback, it’s an intended feature, said Delegate Mark Cole (R-Spotsylvania), Chairman of the Privileges and Elections Committee. “This prevents any one party from making one-sided policy decisions that affect both parties. The board would be forced to work together to find common ground.”

Legislation from Del. Margaret Ransone

  • Creates “Director of Operations” as a non-political, career position

  • Removes two additional political appointees

  • Require bipartisan support to appoint the Commissioner

  • Allow the Board to appoint a Commissioner

  • Require three members from each political party

  • Increase term lengths for State Board members from four years to six years

  • Increase the number of State Board members from three to six