Andi Bayer | Election Integrity Working Group
Have you received an absentee ballot in the mail and wondered why, because you never requested one? Or maybe you received an absentee ballot for someone who moved from your address years ago — or for a complete stranger?
If so, you (or the person for whom the ballot was intended) are one of hundreds of thousands of Virginia citizens who were placed on the Permanent Absentee list in 2021 by the Democrat-run legislature. You weren’t asked for your permission to be placed on the list. You could have missed the one notification that you were on the list, because Election Registrars were instructed to send only a single mailing to tell voters they had been placed on this list but could “opt out.”
Though some voters need and want to vote by mail, many voters do not want to receive mailed absentee ballots for every election, and with good reason. The bipartisan 2005 report of the Commission on Federal Election Reform, chaired by former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James Baker III, stated that ‘Absentee ballots remain the largest source of potential voter fraud.” [https://www.wsj.com/articles/heed-jimmy-carter-on-the-danger-of-mail-in-voting-11586557667 } Given these known security risks, mail-in ballots are not the norm in elections around the world, where over 84% of all countries have NO postal ballots.
A NEW NOTICE TO HELP PROTECT VOTER CHOICE
Last week, the Fairfax County General Registrar directed all polling places for both early voting and Election Day to post signs informing voters how to remove themselves from the Permanent Absentee List.
The notice stated:
NOTICE TO VOTERS:
OPTING OUT OF THE PERMANENT ABSENTEE LIST
On July 1, 2021, under a new law all Virginia voters on an Annual Absentee list were moved to a Permanent Absentee list. The Fairfax County Office of Elections is required to send all voters on the Permanent Absentee list an absentee ballot for all elections.
If you are on the Permanent Absentee list, you can choose to stay on that list. You also have the right to opt out of the Permanent Absentee program if you would prefer not to receive an absentee ballot for every election.
Last year, we sent a notice to all voters who were moved to the Permanent Absentee list to inform them that they had the right and opportunity to be removed from the Permanent Absentee list if they did not want to receive an absentee ballot for every election. Please let an election officer at this location know if you would like to be removed from the Permanent Absentee list. You will be given a form to opt out of the Permanent Absentee ballot program. You may also call the Fairfax Election Office at 703-222-0776 if you have any questions.
Next week, the Fairfax County Office of Elections will post similar notices in Korean, Spanish and Vietnamese.
You can complete the Fairfax County form to be removed from the Permanent Absentee List here.
Virginia also provides a state-wide form here.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IF YOU RECEIVED A MAIL-IN ABSENTEE BALLOT, BUT YOU DON’T WANT TO VOTE WITH THAT BALLOT IN THE 2022 ELECTION?
IF YOU STILL HAVE THE BALLOT: If you plan to vote during early voting (through November 5) or on Election Day (November 8), you can bring the mailer envelope and ballot to the polling place and “surrender” it to the Supervisor. She will mark both the envelope and ballot “Spoiled”. You can then vote in-person normally.
IF YOU NEVER GOT THE BALLOT, OR LOST IT: In Early Voting, if the poll worker says you were sent a mail-in ballot and you never received it or lost it, you can sign the “Goldenrod” affirmation statement and vote in-person normally. But on Election Day, you will have to surrender your Absentee Ballot or vote a Provisional ballot.
IF YOU THREW THE BALLOT AWAY: For both Early Voting and on Election Day, you will have to vote a Provisional ballot.
HOW THE DEMOCRAT-RUN LEGISLATURE LIMITED YOUR CHOICE IN VOTING IN 2021
Many people chose to vote with an Absentee Ballot in 2020 due to the COVID state of emergency. However, they may never have expected that their one-time request to vote absentee would be used by the Democratic legislature in 2021 to place them on a permanent absentee list without their permission. On March 31, 2021, the Virginia General Assembly voted for the Department of Elections to automatically enroll everyone who had previously requested an Absentee Ballot into the Permanent Absentee List. The law stated:
That the Department of Elections shall enroll on the permanent absentee voter list pursuant to § 24.2-703.1 of the Code of Virginia, as it shall become effective, each voter enrolled, on or before June 30, 2021, on the special absentee voter applicant list pursuant to § 24.2-703.1 of the Code of Virginia, as it is currently effective, without any action necessary on the voter’s part, unless the voter opts out of enrollment on the permanent absentee voter list.
HOW FAIRFAX GOP WORKS TO PROTECT YOUR CHOICE IN VOTING
The Fairfax GOP Election Integrity team had repeatedly requested the Fairfax County Office of Elections to create their own opt-out form, and to train early voting staff and election officers to inform voters of their right to opt-out of the Permanent Absentee Voter List. The County did create a model multi-lingual opt-out form in 2022 and posted it to their website.
However, Poll Watchers observed this year that in some cases voters who stated they did not want to receive an absentee ballot were still not told about the opt-out form. In some polling locations, voters were not readily provided the opt-out form when they asked for it.
The Election Integrity team raised the issue again at the October 27 Electoral Board meeting. On the following day, Registrar Eric Spicer directed staff to post the “Opting Out Of The Permanent Absentee List” notices in polling places.
Election Integrity groups in other Virginia counties are now pursuing similar solutions to protect voters’ choices in how they vote, by informing them of their right to be removed from the Permanent Absentee List.
Andi Bayer co-chairs the Election Integrity Working Group, a volunteer-run project of the Fairfax GOP.