New General Registrar Drives Reform at Fairfax County Office of Elections
Election Integrity Working Group | Fairfax GOP
The new General Registrar, Eric Spicer, began serving on March 28, 2022 after being appointed by the Fairfax County Electoral Board to replace the former General Registrar Scott Konopasek. The Electoral Board unanimously accepted Konopasek’s resignation on March 24. Spicer previously served as the Elections Manager in Fairfax for almost five years. Previously he had been the Election Administrator for twenty-one years for the City of Alexandria.
At the April 14, 2022 Fairfax Electoral Board meeting, Spicer reported that he was reversing several controversial decisions and policies that Konopasek had instituted for the 2021 election.
“These are welcome changes that will strengthen election integrity in Fairfax and improve the management of our elections as well. Eric Spicer is driving significant reforms that have been needed for years — and especially after the many problems with election operations we all encountered in 2020 and 2021,” said Fairfax GOP Chairman Steve Knotts.
The recommended changes touch on almost all aspects of election processes in Fairfax.
Spicer announced that he will require the final four digits of the Social Security Number for absentee ballot applications, as required by law and in line with the practices of other counties. In 2021, Konopasek had refused to require the Social Security Number, resulting in a lawsuit against the County.
Spicer has requested permission of the Department of Elections (ELECT) to authorize a pilot of a duplication process for ballots that normally would be hand-counted. This includes ballots that are submitted by overseas email voters and military ballots. In 2021 Konopasek had insisted on this duplication process without first confirming its legality. Because the process had not in fact been approved by ELECT, staff ended up duplicating the ballots and then also hand-counting them in the traditional way.
Spicer is conducting a Ballot-on-Demand printer pilot project for early voting for the Democrat primary. The Ballot-on-Demand printer provides a voter with a paper ballot specific to his precinct and Congressional District, which the voter then completes in the traditional way, marking his choices with a pen. Spicer intends these Ballot-on-Demand printers to replace the touch-screen ExpressVote ballot marking devices for most voters in early voting, although the ExpressVote machines will still be available for voters who need them. In 2021, Konopasek had made a concerted effort for all voters to use the ExpressVote ballot marking devices, which required voters to enter their choices on a touch-screen which then printed their choices on a card. The ExpressVote ballots that were printed in this way were later found to be adding an extra character — an “R” — in front of then-candidate Glenn Youngkin’s name on the printed ballot. Konopasek provided a demonstration after the election with a small sample of ballots purporting to show that the extra “R” did not change the tabulation of the ExpressVote ballots with the misprint.
Spicer will require the scanners used at satellites to be programmed to print results tapes. He will also keep all thumbdrives in the scanners until the scanners have been closed and paper tapes printed. Konopasek instead had required all early voting satellite scanners to be programmed not to print results tapes. As a result, when the thumb drives from five satellite locations were found to be corrupted (including all three of the 45 day early voting centers), ballots had to be rescanned in the Central Absentee Precinct’s (CAP) high speed scanner to obtain results for the election. In the process of those rescannings, mistakes were made in the configuration and chain of custody for the thumb drives used in the CAP high speed scanner, which then required yet more rescanning of ballots: two rescannings total for the Mt. Vernon early voting ballots, and an additional rescanning of ballots from the Central Absentee Precinct for precinct drop box ballots and some mail-in ballots.
Spicer will align canvassing operations for the satellites more closely with those of the Election day precincts, requiring in all polling locations that a Statement of Results have attached both the opening zero tapes and the final results tapes.. Under Konopasek, the results were just transcribed from the tapes to the Statement of Results, satellite documentation was incomplete, and satellite canvassing and documentation lacked transparency.
Spicer will expand the training of Election Officers, Chiefs and Assistant Chiefs. All first-time officers will be required to complete a series of exercises on election equipment and to demonstrate mastery of their use, before being eligible to serve. The hands-on sessions will also be open to any election officers. In 2021, these hands-on exercises were not provided.
Spicer will require actual copies of the zero opening tapes and results tapes for each machine to be posted at the door of each polling place on Election Day. In earlier years, only hand-written Call Sheets were posted, not the actual tapes.
Spicer has stated that he does not intend to send the KnowInk Poll Pads to the Chiefs’s homes on the weekend prior to Election Day, for them to download the updated voter rolls. Konopasek had required the Chiefs to download the voter data at their homes in 2021. In the state certification of the poll pads, connectivity risks were cited as an open issue.
One additional change in the 2022 elections will be a result of a 2021 Court decision against the County. A Virginia resident submitted a Freedom of Information Request to several counties, asking for the Chain of Custody logs for ballot drop boxes. All the General Registrars in other counties immediately made the logs available – except for Konopasek, who refused, arguing that release of the logs would affect the security of the election. The citizen sued for access to the logs. The judge ruled against the County, finding that there was no probable harm in releasing the custody logs. Because that ruling is still in force, we would expect Spicer to provide ballot drop box Chain of Custody logs if requested.
Finally, Spicer has initiated a new $25 one-time referral bonus for Language Officers who can speak Spanish, Vietnamese or Korean. Language Officers proficient in Vietnamese and Korean are especially needed. If you or someone you know can serve as a language officer, contact the Fairfax County Election Office at 703-222-0776 or email Voting@FairfaxCounty.gov.
We anticipate that more changes will keep coming over the next months. You can get notice of upcoming Electoral Board meetings by contacting the Clerk of the Electoral Board Beth Methfessel at 703-324-4740 or email Beth.Methfessel@FairfaxCounty.gov.
The Election Integrity Working Group is a volunteer-led project of the Fairfax County Republican Committee.