Virginia Regulatory Town Hall
Department of Elections
State Board of Elections
Election Administration [1 VAC 20 ‑ 60]
Action Polling Place Accessiblity Assessments
Stage Proposed
Comment Period Ended on 7/4/2016
Next Comment     Back to List of Comments
6/27/16  12:20 pm
Commenter: Lawrence Haake, General Registrar Chesterfield County

1VAC20-60-35 Polling Place Accessibility Assessments

I would recommend NOT adopting the proposed regulation for the following reasons:

  1. The authority of the State Board of Elections to adopt rules and regulations as found in §24.2-103(A) is limited to be “consistent with election laws”.  Obedience to any adopted rule or regulation is expected on the condition that the rule or regulation itself “does not conflict with Virginia or federal law.”  The proposed regulation would be in direct contradiction with §24.2-604 which gives the full authority to the electoral board to permit or deny persons access to a polling place.
  2. The contradiction listed in number 2 above is emphasized when considering that there is a 2006 opinion from the Virginia Attorney General that the organization that audits accessibility MAY NOT enter a polling place on Election Day without the express written permission of the electoral board.  Yet another strong contradiction in law to the proposed regulation.
  3. Section B of the proposed regulations would allow the State Board of Elections to grant authority to specific individuals to enter polling places “on or before any election day”.  Arguments 2 and 3 above cover the prohibition to grant such permission on Election Day.  The State Board of Elections would certainly lack the authority to grant access for their agents to non-state or private property – local schools, churches, community centers, fire stations, etc. – on any other day.  The other problem with the proposition is that there is no requirement that the facility used for a polling place meet accessibility requirements except on Election Day.  Thus, any such pre (or even post) Election Day examination would be pointless.
  4. Section D of the proposed regulations would allow accessibility auditors to take measurements “unless it is disruptive or interferes with the administration of the election” and Section E would allow accessibility auditors to take photos and video “unless it is disruptive or interferes with the administration of the election.”  By the very nature of being unnatural occurrences in a polling place, taking measurements or photos or video WILL most certainly be disruptive and WILL most certainly interfere with the administration of the election!  Such activity would at the least be distracting to election officials and thus detract from their primary duty of facilitating voting.
  5. Let us keep proper perspective.  As important as accessibility is, providing an appropriate environment for citizens to exercise their franchise is the primary function and goal at a polling place.  Anything that detracts from that should be given serious pause and proper consideration prior to implementation.  This entire proposal is contrary to our primary function and goal.
  6. It seems that the proper approach for auditing polling places is to ask the General Assembly to clearly incorporate that activity into Virginia election law.

    Thank you for your consideration.
CommentID: 50313