In a major victory for voters in Virginia, the Democratic Party of Virginia today announced a settlement with the State Board of Elections and the Department of Elections to significantly remedy Virginia’s historical problem with long wait times to vote.
Since 2004, Virginia’s voters – especially those in precincts with a high concentration of minority voters – have been plagued by long lines on election day, with some waiting 4 1/2 hours during the last presidential election to cast their ballot. These wait times are indefensible. The bi-partisan Presidential Commission on Election Administration found, in a report issued in January 2014, that “no citizen should have to wait more than 30 minutes to vote” and that “jurisdictions can solve the problems of long lines through a combination of planning” and “efficient allocation of resources.”
In the settlement, the State Board of Elections and the State Department of Elections will take on a major administrative overhaul of the process for dealing with lines on Election Day including issuing clear and consistent guidance to local boards of elections for equipment breakdowns, reevaluating the certification process for voting machines, engaging experts to assist local boards of elections in addressing long line issues, and using data to help with allocation decisions.
“This is a victory for protecting people’s right to vote and for making Virginia a better place for democracy,” said Susan Swecker, Chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Virginia. “Our goal with this lawsuit was to ensure no one waits hours to exercise their right to vote. We applaud the State Board and Department of Elections for committing to solve Virginia’s historical problems with long lines. Today’s settlement will ensure better voting practices across the Commonwealth.”
All parties and the federal judge presiding over the litigation that resulted in the settlement acknowledged concern about long wait times for Virginia voters. The settlement should significantly diminish the problems that Virginia has had in the past with long lines.
The suit was filed in federal court in Richmond in June to strike down Virginia’s voter photo ID law and to remedy Virginia’s long wait times to vote. The challenges to the voter identification law will be decided at a trial in February.