The outgoing Virginia election commissioner is proud that Republicans are pushing for tougher voting laws

RICHMAND, Virginia (WRIC) – Virginia Election Commissioner Chris Piper praised the changes that have expanded voter access during his four-year tenure, saying Thursday that he is disappointed not to remain in the role but is optimistic that “the operating system is strong. ”

At a time when Piper was a senior official in the Virginia election, the Commonwealth repealed its law on photo identification, opened 45 days of unjustified voting, and made ballot boxes permanent. Virginia has even passed its own version of the Voting Rights Act – for the first time in the south.

“In the four years that I have been here, we have moved from an absentee voting system based on excuses to non-excuses. We have seen a record number of absentee ballots, but more importantly, every year that I have been authorized, we have seen a record turnout in elections of this kind, ”Piper said in an interview.

“And we did it because we were able to open access to the ballot. I am incredibly proud of that. We have also shown that you can open access, make it easier for voters who have the right to vote, and continue to hold competitive elections while having a safe and secure election. ”

By following these rules, Gov. Glen Yangkin won last November more votes than any other gubernatorial candidate in Virginia history and Republicans seized control of the Virginia House of Delegates.

But those laws were passed when the state was under full democratic control, and Republicans used their new majority in the Virginia House to take action to repeal many of the changes.

The party passed the law by party vote require voters to show a photo ID abolish the permanent list of absentee voters at polling stations, eliminate ballot boxes and limit personal early voting two weeks before the election.

Republican lawmakers seeking these changes have shared concerns about election security and skepticism about the election process.

“These measures provide, firstly, ample opportunity to exercise the sacred right to vote by exercising due diligence to ensure that voters who vote have the right to do so,” Del Lee Uer (R-Powhatan) told a House subcommittee, representing his bill to restore Virginia’s ID card with a photo. He added that his bill would protect the election process from “erosion by those who may be involved in pranks during the vote.”

Democrats of the Virginia Senate say they will reject those efforts in committee, as was the case when Republicans tried to get similar bills through the House. But the ABC News / Ipsos poll conducted in late December shows that people’s faith in the integrity of the US electoral system has fallen after the January 6 Capitol riots.

Democrats have pointed to former President Donald Trump and other Republicans who falsely claim that the 2020 presidential election was “stolen” for sowing doubts in the country’s electoral system.

Piper did not directly answer the question of whether politicians are to blame for the growing skepticism, saying that he believes these issues and problems give election administrators the opportunity to inform voters about the work they are doing to ensure election security.

“If I point a finger at someone, I’ll get three pointing at me. The fact is that the time for guilt and frustration, for this is never a good time. We were presented with the situation, take the opportunity to take steps to strengthen the country’s faith in the way we conduct elections, “he said.

“If I had one wish, then not only in the election, even for me, it is not to make assumptions. To understand that I am not informed and to make more people understand that if you are not an expert in what you are talking about, you are not aware of the situation. And even experts may disagree. “

Piper did reject the idea that a “forensic audit” of the state’s election process would be a better alternative to the Virginia Department of Risk’s risk-reduction audit. Proposal to free space for post-election forensic examinationadvocated by State Senator Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield), was assassinated by Democrats on the committee.

“I urge everyone to define what a forensic examination is. I have never seen his definition. What happened in Arizona was not an actual process, ”Piper told 8News. “There is no chain of custody. It was some kind of impromptu look at the election. It did not follow any standards and procedures that I know of. “

Senator Chase told the Senate committee that she introduced the measure after her constituents told her they had gone to the polls to vote, but the ballot had already been cast.

“The bill stipulates that the audit includes verification of all materials, equipment and procedures used during any part of the election, including ballots, voting books, voting machines and routers,” Chase said before the committee rejected the legislation.

Chase, who called herself “Trump on Heels”, visited Arizona in June to visit a facility where a “forensic audit” led by Republicans was conducted. Experts have discredited these effortswhich found no evidence of widespread fraud and did not change the fact that President Joe Biden defeated Trump in the state.

“The risk limitation audit is proven. This has been shown again and again. It has been tested a million times, and it shows that we can identify election problems and make it a much more manageable and less resource-intensive way, which means less money, ”Piper said on Thursday.

Piper spoke in favor of a law backed by Gov. Yangkin that would expand and evenly divide the Virginia Electoral Commission between Democratic and Republican candidates. This measure would also deprive the governor of the power to elect an authorized Department of Elections and transfer them to the board.

Piper, who will step down on March 11 after Governor Yangkin decided not to reappoint him, called the effort a “very positive step in the Commonwealth” that would help further depoliticize the Department of Elections.

“This is another step towards showing the citizens of the Commonwealth that this is a truly apolitical group of people who are helping to hold safe and secure elections, and I believe this is a promising development,” he said.

Calling his time as Virginia’s election leader a “lifelong role,” Piper praised the work of chief registrars, respondents and others who helped administer the election across the Commonwealth.

“I would like to continue to serve. I really love my staff. I think I work with some of the best people in the world. They are incredibly loyal, passionate. I am sad that I do not get such an opportunity, ”Piper told 8News. “However, I believe the staff is excellent and I think the system in place is strong. And I think Virginia is set for a successful election, no matter who’s in my chair. It’s not about me, it’s about the system itself, and I think we’re in good shape. “

Piper said he promised to work hand in hand with the Yangkin administration to ensure a smooth transition after he leaves office on March 11.

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