vanessa-newVanessa Remmers covers Stafford County government and schools for and The Free Lance-Star.

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Voter Card Process

After days of poking around, I think I might have gotten the clearest possible answer about how voter information is handled in the voter card process. This information was compiled by officials at the State Board of Elections, and sent to me by their Director of Communications, Susan Pollard. Here is her email as she sent it to me:

Localities have the responsibility under the Code of Virginia to enter their local voter information in the Virginia Election Registration Information System (VERIS).   The redistricting process begins as soon as the US Census conducts its population count for reapportionment and before reappointments of general registrars and electoral boards statewide.

There are checks and balances in the locality data collection and review process. The State Board of Elections conducts data analysis and a variety of data correlations of submitted data to ensure accuracy and data integrity.  For example, SBE ensures one voter is assigned to one precinct and one polling place.  Localities, more familiar with their local communities, are responsible for entering the more detailed information.

Here is a step by step statewide review of the redistricting process in regards to the production and distribution of voter information cards:

  • U.S. Census data is gathered and the Virginia General Assembly adopts and the Governor signs redistricting legislation to create new State House and Senate boundaries.  The General Assembly has not yet adopted new congressional district boundaries.  In addition, local governments have started the process of passing ordinances to create new local election district and precinct boundaries for offices such as Board of Supervisors and School Board.
  • As Virginia is subject to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Department of Justice (DOJ) or the District of Columbia District Court must review and preclear most of Virginia’s proposed district boundary changes.  Stafford County is subject to this preclearance process.  This means that the Virginia Attorney General submits the state level plans to DOJ on behalf of the Commonwealth of Virginia and the County or City Attorney submit the local level plans to DOJ.  By law, SBE is also required to receive notice of these local plans.
  • Once DOJ determines that the proposals have no retrogressive or discriminatory impact under the Voting Rights Act, they will directly contact the locality with a letter of preclearance. .  SBE also requests to receive copies of the local DOJ approval letters as part of its oversight process in ensuring all counties are ready for the primary and General elections.
  • Once the local governing body has enacted its local redistricting plans, the locality general registrar will request the State Board of Elections to setup VERIS (statewide voter registration database) to allow for redistricting data to be entered into the system without compromising the current ongoing daily data management processes.
  • Once a locality completes its data entry, it notifies the State Board that data entering has been completed and the system may go live. It is at this time that a locality is expected to notify SBE of any polling place or election district changes.
  • After significant error checking is completed by SBE, the staff at SBE processes the data entered by the locality.  SBE then notifies the locality that redistricting changes have been implemented and requests that the locality review the changes.
  • Upon notice from the locality that the data is correct, SBE then works with outside vendors to print and distribute voter information cards on behalf of the localities.

Here is a more specific timeline:

  • May 19, 2011  Stafford County requests the State Board of Elections set-up VERIS in order for redistricting information to be entered.
  • June 24, 2011 Letter dated from the Department of Justice of preclearance of Stafford County redistricting plans.
  • July 1, 2011 New terms begin for newly appointed or reappointed General Registrars
  • July 16, 2011 Stafford County completed its redistricting data entry and requested the system to go live.
  • July 22, 2011 After the State Board of Elections conducted an analysis of the data, the information was sent to the printer for voter information cards to be printed.
  • August 4, 2011 The State Board of Elections learned the data on approximately 17,000 voter information cards was incorrect. In consultation with the county, the State Board of Elections sent the new data to the printer for reissue of voter cards.