Republican delegate proposes making Board of Elections bigger, with an even partisan split

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    Del. Margaret Ransone, R-Westmoreland, filed a bill Tuesday that would make the state Board of Elections larger and create an even partisan split on the board, which oversees elections.

    Ransone filed a similar bill in 2018 and it passed the House of Delegates. She reintroduced the bill for the 2019 session in response to an audit from the Joint Legislative and Review Commission of the Department of Elections that found blatant partisan influence, among other problems.

    “The recent JLARC report was disconcerting when they found the department was openly supporting one political party over another,” Ransone said in a statement. “Elections offer an opportunity to choose between candidates and often times a political party but the way elections are administered should never be partisan.”

    Her bill would increase the number of members on the Board of Elections from four to six. Three members would be from the political party that won the most recent gubernatorial election. The remaining three members would come from the political party that received the next largest number of votes in the same election.

    Those members would serve six years under Ransone’s proposal. Members currently serve four years and are appointed by the governor.

    That reconfigured board would also appoint the commissioner of the Department of Elections, who is currently a gubernatorial appointee.

    “The fact that an even numbered board could take a tie vote is not a drawback, it’s an intended feature,” said Del. Mark Cole, R-Spotsylvania, chairman of the Privileges and Elections Committee. “This prevents any one party from making one-sided policy decisions that affect both parties. The board would be forced to work together to find common ground.”

    Ransone’s bill also eliminates two political appointees in the department to further reduce the possibility of political influences. Her proposal creates one non-political job position: a director of operations.

    “Voters should feel confident in the electoral process and trust that elections are conducted in the most transparent way possible,” Speaker of the House Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, said in a release. “This should be a bipartisan cause that we can all champion.”