"Voter Residency Task Force"
Voter Residency Task Force Public Comments Contents Kirk Showalter, May 14 ................................................................................................................................. 1 David McLoughlin, May 21............................................................................................................................ 4 David McLoughlin, May 22............................................................................................................................ 5 Flora Adams, May 28 .................................................................................................................................... 5 Kirk Showalter, May 14 My thoughts on the various correspondences are given below: The General Registrars’ and EB Committees Recommendation: 1. Under the GR’s and EB Committee recommendation, it appears to be suggested that if a person gives (as their residential address) a commercial address then the voter should be allowed to provide the address either verbally or in a second document. (As opposed to the current process of denying the application according to law and current procedure). If this is truly what the committee meant, then I am very much opposed to this. The law and the voter registration application clearly state what information must be provided by the voter in order to register to vote. Under current process, if a person did not provide a residential address, the application is denied and the voter is sent a new voter registration application, a form stating why the person’s application was denied AND a form to appeal the denial to the circuit court. The latter is a safeguard to insure that a general registrar does not indiscriminately deny a voter’s application. It should be noted that the GR’s denial is also not final because the law allows the appeal to also be made to the GR. Thus, if the GR erred in denying it (because the address was actually a valid residential address that the voter can demonstrate), then error can still be remedied even if the books are closed. Furthermore, by providing – either verbally or in writing on some form other than the VR application – a residential address, the voter escapes affirming under penalty for false statements that this is their address. Current law does not attach the penalties for perjury for information provided in any other manner than the VR application. Lastly, having to chase down voters who don’t provide the residential address is a new procedure that applies unnecessary workload on the general registrars; especially in light of existing procedures. It would also be extremely burdensome to do so right at the close of books in very heavy elections. July 4, 2010 1 It is not unduly burdensome on the voter to provide their correct residential address on the voter registration application. The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law 2. Item #4 of this letter seems to suggest that General Registrars should not question an application when it appears that the person is attempting to register to vote at a commercial address – even when the information suggesting that the address is commercial comes from a reliable source. I strongly object to LCCRUL’s suggestion. Attempting to register to vote at a commercial address has little to do with registering homeless people to vote. Virginia law clearly requires that persons register at residential – not commercial – addresses. Thus, if a person gives a commercial address, the general registrars should be allowed to investigate whether or not that person – in fact – lives at the address given. In my experience, most of the time someone attempts to use a commercial address, it isn’t because they don’t have a home, it is because they wish to vote from their business address or they give a commercial mail box facility address that has a street address (versus post office boxes). Furthermore, it has also been my experience that the homeless population ( and my locality has a fairly large one) will register to vote using a shelter or similar organization where they spend significant amounts of time. If they choose not to use such an address, then we work with them to identify where they sleep the most and use that property parcel address (all parcels in the City have an address). We work to insure that these procedures are as minimally burdensome on the individual as possible while meeting the spirit of the law. It should be noted that, in this day and age, many – if not most – localities in Virginia can tell you whether a particular parcel is zoned for any kind of residential use or not. Such zoning information is far more detailed than the post office’s information as to the status of the building. For example, a property may be zoned commercial, but have a sub designation that it is dormitory or nursing home use. In such cases, the property is clearly being used for residential purposes and the application should be accepted without any need to contact the voter. The ACLU: 3 Item II 1. of the ACLU’s letter suggests that the general registrar should not attempt to influence a student’s decision as to where to register to vote. This restriction should also be extended to any group or individual. I had many cases in the November 2008 election where a student registered to vote at their college address and then called to cancel their registration because they really felt they were residents of where their parents lived. In each case, the student expressed that they had been pressured by someone – a voter registration drive group….even college professors… -- to register where they go to school. 4. Item III 2a. of the ACLU’s letter would create additional and unwarranted workload on the general registrars. It suggests that, if a person does not provide a residential address on the voter registration application, then a whole other procedure involving attempting to contact the voter and get the address would have to be added to the GR’s work processes. The law and the voter registration application clearly state what information must be provided by the voter in order to register to vote. July 4, 2010 2 Under current process, if a person did not provide a residential address, the application is denied and the voter is sent a new voter registration application AND a form stating why the person’s application was denied as well as the fact (and the form to do so) that they may appeal the general registrar’s denial to the circuit court. The latter is sufficient safeguard to insure that a general registrar does not indiscriminately deny a voter’s application. If the procedure that the ACLU suggests is adopted, then the voter could give any address on the “form” that was sent, but would not have affirmed it in the same manner as on a voter registration application. There is no provision in current law for penalties for providing false information on such a “form” as there are for voter registration applications. Additionally, if voters are allowed to “correct” such critical information as a residential address what would happened with denials of voter registration applications for other critical information such as SSN, answering the felony questions, etc? Answering the 11 questions on the voter registration application correctly is not unduly burdensome. Furthermore, if a person has difficulty with registering or has questions, GR’s are readily available to assist voters with registering. 5. Item III 2b. The ACLU suggests that GR’s attempt to obtain a mailing address when the address at which the voter lives does not receive mail. Current law does not allot ID cards to be mailed to anything other than the residential address except in limited circumstances, and there is good reason for this. Mailing the ID card to the voter is one of the few ways that we have to determine that the person actually lives at the address that they have given. This is important because our whole elections system is predicated on the one man, one vote concept. To insure this, our election districts are broken into geographic areas. Only those persons in a particular geographic area (for the most part) should be able to participate in electing a particular representative. It is because of this that we register people to vote using residential addresses. Otherwise, we would only need a mailing address to register someone to vote. 6. Item III 2d. The ACLU suggests that GR’s shall not ask any additional information of the voter if the information given is sufficient to assign the registrant to a voting precinct. I have had many times where a voter lists a mailing address substantially different from the residential address given on the voter registration application. Sometimes there is a valid reason for the voter doing this. More often than not, however, it signals that there is something potentially problematic with the registration. GR’s should be allowed to contact the voter in such cases for clarification. 7. Item III 2e. is much too open ended. As suggested, a voter could send in a wholely blank application then, after the deadline to register, come back at any point – including election day – and the GR would have to “accept” the voter registration. As mentioned in #1 above, the voter is not, then, affirming under penalty of law, that any information being given to the GR is true AND there would be no penalties for providing false information with this procedure. General comments: July 4, 2010 3 Some of the recommendations address the inability to correct errors on voter registration applications once the deadline passes rather than questions of residence. This is most happens most often to applications mailed and postmarked by the voter registration deadline, but received after the deadline to register to vote. In such cases, the voter does not have an opportunity to submit another application with the correct information. One possible solution to this would be to have an earlier deadline for voter registration through any means other than in person before the GR and a later deadline for in person voter registration before a GR. A two week spread between the two would allow voters who registered to vote by other means to receive notice that their voter registration application couldn’t be accepted and still have time to visit the GR to register to vote in person. (Side note: when persons registered to vote in person before the GR, applications were hardly ever denied unless the individual wasn’t qualified to vote because of a felony conviction.) The provision of GR visits to the homebound or incarcerated could be re-instituted during that two week period. Alternatively, the voter could still appeal the denial to the circuit court. Thank you for your consideration of these comments. Please let me know if I can be of further assistance. J. Kirk Showalter General Registrar City of Richmond David McLoughlin, May 21 Please consider this as input to the deliberations of the General Assembly Residency Task Force. I support the right of all eligible registrants to vote. This should be encouraged in all democracies. In this case, there seems to be no issue for Federal elections, but increasingly more concern with State and particularly local elections. In cases where a large university is located in a small or medium sized city, it is entirely possible that transient students could decide a contentious local issue by overwhelming the local electorate. These students could be the deciding factor, yet not remain in residence beyond their college time. They can allow a college viewpoint, usually the college administration viewpoint, to carry an election and influence land use codes, tax rates, appointments to city and school governing groups and many other issues. If they leave the area after graduation ( more common than not ) they don’t have to abide by the decision and the effects of that decision, but the local residents do. This is a very real possibility with Liberty University (LU) and Lynchburg. The city has four ward seats and three at large seats on the City Council. LU can turn out enough students to dominate the ward it is in and the three at large seats and produce a controlling group on the Council. In particular, LU has an interest in controlling land use favorable to it and an objective to teach creation science in the city schools. While they have a right to have input and seek favorable outcomes to their benefit, it is unjust to allow transients to unduly affect these decisions and not have to abide by the results. There must be July 4, 2010 4 a way to permit “qualified” students, who intend to remain in the area, to vote without allowing every “on campus” student to do so. I am aware that the ACLU and other voter organizations threaten to sue if college students are treated differently than all other registrants. Have you discussed this issue with them or with the Federal DOJ representatives who have to approve changes to Virginia voting legalities to determine if some reasonable agreement can be reached? This appears not to be a partisan issue since the republicans are as concerned about Blacksburg and VA Tech as the democrats are with LU and Lynchburg. The legalities of this issue are real, but beyond the scope of input from common citizens like me who are not trained in the law or intimately familiar with voting regulations. My intent is to state my concern and hope that the more knowledgeable people on the Task Force can and will find an acceptable solution to an issue that can be both unfair and unethical, even if legal. Thank you for the opportunity for input to the Task Force. David McLoughlin Forest, VA David McLoughlin, May 22 This is an addendum to my comments to the Residency Task Force. This morning’s News & Advance carries the headline: “Liberty University pulls plug on Democratic Club.” Maria Childress, LU Staff Advisor to the Club said the bottom line is “you can’t be a democrat and be a Christian and be a university representative.” The University denies this is their attempt to deny the club their free speech, but what else could you possibly call it. I’m submitting this to the Task Force because it is yet one more example of how the administration at LU will attempt “to get their way” if they are allowed to overwhelm the local voting structure for City Council and other elections. Their intent is crystal clear and we cannot allow this to happen. The City of Lynchburg will be controlled by transient students following the lead of the LU Administration. You can check the accuracy of my comments at newsadvance.com. I urge you to do everything legally possible to preclude this, not only unjust, but unethical “takeover” of the City of Lynchburg. David McLoughlin Forest, VA Flora Adams, May 28 To: Governor Tim Kaine Re: Representation without Taxation – the Residency Task Force July 4, 2010 5 Dear Governor Kaine: We need your help to preserve Williamsburg as a great place to visit and to live. Allowing all college students to choose where they register to vote regardless of their true domiciles will have serious negative consequences for small cities like Williamsburg. Normally, when one establishes a Virginia “domicile”, one needs to change his car registration within 30 days, get a new driver’s license, pay local personal property tax, and file and pay Virginian income tax. Students who are willing to take these steps and change their real domicile are welcome in the City and should be able to vote in local elections and hold public office. As it is now, some in-state students register to vote in Williamsburg but don’t change their driver’s license, are not subject to the car tax or property tax, but are eligible to run for election to our City Council. Even worse, out-of-state students register here but don’t have to change their driver’s license or pay Virginia taxes. In fact, they don’t even have to notify their former state that they have registered in Virginia. William & Mary students have been overheard bragging that they voted in two places. Someone who does not pay taxes in their local community and has not changed his real domicile should NOT be eligible for election to local office where he or she will be voting on local rules, regulations and taxes. That amounts to Representation without Taxation. It is wrong. The definition of domicile for taxation and voting should be the same. Beware of Unintended Consequences: Most college students, even those who live off campus, have little interest in the nuts and bolts of City issues. They have no interest in the quality of the local schools or whether trash is collected once or twice weekly. The one issue that does interest students is the City’s rental regulation prohibiting more than 3 unrelated people from living in a dwelling unit. This issue is sufficiently important to them that there has been a multi-year campaign to get students to register to vote in the City. In fact, one student organization has been paying any student who gets others to register to vote $10 per registrant. The impetus for students registering in Williamsburg is to get students elected to the City Council, where they will be in a position to change or abolish the 3-person rental rule. There are currently about 8400 registered voters in the City, including about 2000 students. If all of the 7625 students voted, they could easily take over City Council. Vested interests are working very hard to see that that happens. When it does happen, and I believe it will, the City noise ordinance and 3-person rule will the first casualties. July 4, 2010 6 In Williamsburg, the break point where rents become sufficient to cover a mortgage and other costs is (generally) 4 people. Once the 3-person limit has been lifted, the single-family homes near campus will be extremely attractive to investors. Our slum landlords are salivating. As you know, rental properties are not usually well kept up. As they deteriorate and their numbers increase, neighborhoods become less and less desirable. Families and other long-term residents move out. Before long, Williamsburg will no longer be the pleasant, lovely town that tourists and parents like to visit. It will be a run-down party town. We can promise you there will be a backlash at the voting booth from residents of small college towns who see their cities deteriorate under a Democratic administration. Sincerely, Flora Adams and C. Stewart Goddin Williamsburg cc: Residency Task Force; Williamsburg City Council July 4, 2010 7