On May 8th, over 30,000 Republican voters participated in an “Unassembled Convention” to select the Republican nominees for governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general. This convention is not only worth mentioning for its implementation of sound practices of election integrity, but because it indicates a mass rejection of the malpractices of the 2020 election. When compared to the lack of chain of custody of the ballots, lack of transparency, kicking poll watchers out of the room, vulnerabilities surrounding the securities of the machines, etc., of the 2020 election, the VA GOP’s May 8th convention provides an example of an election in which the voters can be assured of the results. Many lessons can be learned from their process. The convention ran smoothly because of these simple, common sense practices to ensure faith in the results: the convention required photo ID, ballot reconciliation, campaign observers and video surveillance, dual transportation of the ballots, and multiple hand counts of the paper ballots.
Normally, a convention would be a single location, but with certain COVID restrictions still in place, the VA GOP’s State Central Committee (SCC) organized about 40 separate locations spread through out the commonwealth where pre-filed delegates could walk in or curbside vote. Each delegate had to pre-file in order to participate in the convention. A master list of the names of delegates, the convention voter roll, was then generated based on those names. To vote, a delegate would walk in, go to their voting county’s table, hand their ID to the teller, receive a ballot, mark it, and drop it in monitored ballot box separated by county. To curbside vote, the voter would park in the designated area while two tellers would take the voter’s ID to the table, bring ballot to the voter, the voter would place the ballot in a folder, and the two tellers would place it in the monitored ballot box together. The requirement of the photo ID makes it possible to keep the voter roll accurate and ensure the person voting is voting under his/her own name, protecting the integrity of each individual ballot. It also ensures the accuracy of the reconciliation process.
The reconciliation process is absolutely necessary to know which ballots are actually being counted. With a set number of printed ballots for each county, after the polls closed, the number of marked ballots plus the number of spoiled ballots plus the number of unmarked ballots had to equal the total number of printed ballots. The number of marked ballots also had to match the number of voters that voted. These paper ballots were counted several times by multiple people all in view of campaign observers that were encouraged to record. While this is not possible for an election with mail-in voting, it is the same process that usually occurs at the precinct level in general elections.
In the 2020 election, the chain of custody for hundreds of thousands of ballots were broken due to mass consolidated counting centers where ballots were co-mingled at the State Farm Arena in Atlanta or the TCF Center in Detroit, for example, throwing the legitimacy of those ballots into question. Any reform that mitigates that disastrous breaking the chain of custody is essential to ensuring election integrity, which is why the process in Virginia worked so well.
After the reconciliation process, all the ballots were put in envelopes and signed by those who counted them including the head teller overseeing the process. The ballots and forms attesting the accuracy of the rolls and reconciliation were then placed in boxes and transported by two people to one counting center in Richmond. Each campaign was encouraged to follow the drivers to the counting center. Over the next three days, the ballots were hand-counted multiple times within view of campaign observers. Phill Kline says about the 2020 election, “A billionaire was invited in the counting room, and America was kicked out.” With this process in Virginia, America was invited back into the counting room.
While hand-counting a ballot where there are a large number of items to be voted on (races, referendums, etc.) might not be practicable, it works very well for simple races like the one in VA with only three items (governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general). Another detail worth noting is that the ballot was ranked-choice. In order to win the nomination, the candidate was required to receive 50% plus one of the total votes. Instead of voting for only one of the seven candidates for governor, a voter would choose the order of their preferred candidates. This required several hand counts, and with each count the candidate with the lowest votes was dropped off until one candidate remained.
“Comparing these proven principles to the elections in November is stark,” noted Tim Griffin, special counsel for the Thomas More Society. Griffin trained hundreds of poll watchers in Michigan and was at the TCF center in Detroit for four days after the November election. He also saw the process of the VA May 8th convention in detail. When you see it done right, the egregious lawlessness of the administration of the 2020 election becomes even more glaringly obvious. With hundreds of election integrity groups organically forming across the country over the past six months and the dozens of election reforms several state legislatures have passed, we have a lot to be hopeful for going forward