RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A proposal to expand and split Virginia’s State Board of Elections evenly among Democratic and Republican appointees received unanimous support in the state Senate.
The bill, which Gov. Glenn Youngkin is backing, would expand the board from five to eight members and also strip the governor’s authority to pick the commissioner of the Department of Elections and give it to the board.
The legislation wouldn’t go into effect until 2023 if passed by the House of Delegates and signed by Youngkin, giving the governor time to replace the outgoing elections commissioner.
“What we have now is a bill in front of you that would do, I think, the right thing with respect to the commissioner of the Department of Elections and with respect to the Virginia State Board of Elections and that is make it truly independent,” state Sen. Jill Vogel (R-Fauquier), who introduced the bill, said on the Senate floor on Monday.
The board would be split between members representing the political party of the governor and the party that received the second most votes in a governor’s race. If the expanded board reaches a tie in a decision, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia will appoint a retired judge to break the 4-4 split.
While the board would have the power to hire and replace the elections commissioner, any such decision would require at least five of the eight board members to agree.
“The goal here is to create an environment where it is no longer operating within the governor’s administration, which is effectively how it operates now,” Vogel added.
Under the current rules, Virginia’s governor has the authority to replace the entire board and the governor’s political party gets a majority of the seats.
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