Minutes - Summary of Jan. 3 Meeting

Summary Minutes for Meeting of Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Bipartisan Election Process Improvement Commission (“Commission”) convened in Room 232 of the County Government Center shortly after 7:00 p.m.  Members in attendance included:  Co-Chairmen Katherine Hanley and Stu Mendelsohn, and Members Cesar del Aguila, Bettie Baca, Alex Blakemore, Keith Damon, Olga Hernandez, Jeremy Epstein, Tania Hossain, William Kreykenbohm, Jay McConville, James T. Parmelee, Lee Ann Pender, Ginny Peters, Kelsey Phipps, Susan Platt, Brian Schoeneman, Marcus Simon, and Jeffrey Wisoff.  Members of the public were in attendance, as was County staff.

Chairman Bulova welcomed the Committee members, and she expressed her view as to the great importance of the task and the widespread public interest in improving local elections.  Those remarks were followed by opening remarks by Co-Chairman Mendelsohn.  All emphasized the need for the Commission to address its work quickly to take advantage of the County budget deliberations and the election preparations that begin early each calendar year.  Mr. Mendelsohn stated that it was his goal that the Commission complete its work by March so as to report to the Board of Supervisors before their budget actions in April.

Co-Chairman Mendelsohn expressed concern that there was pending litigation on the past election and that the Commission needed to steer clear of those issues, and he asked Deputy County Attorney Michael Long to comment on that.  Mr. Long responded that the litigation was styled as Fairfax County Democratic Committee v. Cameron Quinn et al., and that litigation generally concerned the training of election workers and the conduct of the last November election.  To avoid issues related to that litigation, he stated that the Commission should concentrate its attention on possible improvements to future elections.

Next were introductions where members were asked to identify themselves and to state those issues that he or she thought that the Commission should address.  Those introductions and statements continued around the table.  While each member presented a number of issues, there seemed to be widespread interest in (i) reducing the length of time spent in line by many voters, (ii) expanding the use of absentee voting and satellite voting locations and implementing early voting, and reviewing the mail-in absentee ballot process, (iii) reviewing how and what kind of voting machines and electronic poll books were used and deployed, (iv) providing more poll workers, and (v) providing more training to poll workers.

In order to provide a brief summary of elections, Assistant County Attorney Erin Ward explained a handout that was prepared for the Commission members by County staff.  That summary noted the source of Virginia election laws, the role of local electoral boards and the general registrars.  That summary described the appointment of election officers and the establishment of precincts.  Also included in the summary was information on the deployment of voting machines and absentee voting, and the election calendar, including the review required by Section 5 of the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, as amended.  Deputy County Attorney Michael Long then provided a short explanation of a handout provided to members on the Virginia Freedom of Information Act.

Co-Chairmen Hanley and Mendelsohn promised to consider the members’ comments, group those comments into issues, and bring back a plan at the next meeting to begin to address the issues raised by the members.

Following a brief discussion, the Commission decided to meet again at 7:15 on the evenings of January 17, January 24, and January 31.  Each of those dates is a Thursday, and each of those meetings will be in Room 232.  Dates for other meetings will be decided later.


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