Department of Elections will hire more people in response to audit report

High turnout last year meant long lines at many polling places, including Henrico County's Short Pump precinct, where the number of votes for Democrats has surged since Trump's 2016 election. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury) — Nov. 6, 2018.

The Department of Elections will hire six new employees this summer, which should help address some of the problems identified in an audit last year, officials said.

The new positions, funded in the final state budget, represent the “single biggest infusion in new positions to the department as far back as I can remember,” said Chris Piper, commissioner of the Department of Elections. Piper worked in elections for eight years before becoming commissioner.

The budget allows for two new training positions, one administrative position, two list maintenance positions and a position to help with geographic information systems (which helps when assigning voters and drawing voting district lines).

“It’s a pretty exciting thing for all of us,” Piper said at a Board of Elections meeting Tuesday.

In September, the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission cited the absence of a full-time staff member to maintain voter rolls and an overarching concern that local registrars don’t get enough guidance from the state on when to add or remove voters from lists.

Despite that, the study said the state’s voter list is “likely mostly accurate.” 

Lawmakers proposed funding in the budget to address some of those issues. In the end, the budget provides $4.2 million more for the Department of Elections for a total annual budget of $22 million.

The department plans to hire new employees by early July, Piper said.