COLUMN — New rules would allow lockboxes for absentee ballots
Sadly, in the dark of the night, this governor’s administration is trying to undermine our democracy as we know it.
Last week, the Department of Elections rolled out an illegal policy with the expectation that Gov. Ralph Northam will approve and fund it in his budget amendment. The law says that absentee voting can be recorded in two ways. You can mail it or you can take it to the registrar’s office. Those are the only options.
The Department of Elections is encouraging counties to use unmanned lockboxes to receive those ballots. The problem is that, with no observers, anyone can stuff any number of ballots into those lockboxes.
Currently, observers from each party are to watch the opening and recording of absentee ballots. They plan to let only one person do that important job. They also decided that they are not going to use the national change of address system until after November.
While rioters in Seattle, Portland, Chicago, Minneapolis, and New York are talking about defunding the police, in Virginia some are proposing tying the hands of law enforcement officers. Last week, the Senate Democrats released their proposed legislation that they say has the support of every Democrat in the Senate. Below are some of the provisions that are included in their bills.
Everyone agrees that law enforcement should be well trained. Currently, the training in Virginia exceeds most other states. Our regional academies expect in most cases far more than the state requires. Those academies are guided by a group of professionals to monitor and update the standards. The new proposal would drop two of the law enforcement professionals and replace them with two community activists and one member of a civil rights organization. None of the three new members would have experience in policing. As drafted, the 15-member board will have only three members who have had experience on the streets and roads of Virginia.
Use of Force
Currently, officers are trained to use no more physical force than necessary. Ninety-nine percent of the time that is exactly what happens on the street. Officers have no desire to harm anyone, however, sometimes situations need to be dealt with to prevent someone from harming or killing an officer or a bystander. The proposed legislation writes into the Code of Virginia that an officer cannot use a chokehold, or fire into a moving vehicle, except when a life is at risk. This is a lawyer’s paradise. Each witness will recall the facts from their own perspective. If they want to get officers in trouble, they will recall things one way, and if they want to protect the law breaker, they will see things far differently.
Currently, some law enforcement agencies buy or otherwise get military equipment to have on hand in case something goes very wrong and there are no agencies who can assist in a timely manner. The proposed bill would bar the state police and localities from receiving such equipment. You probably have seen a television police show that has used such equipment to handle bombs or to ram walls that are being used by snipers to kill innocent victims.
Collection of Data
Current law requires that officers must keep records on the race of those they interact with. The proposed bill requires that officers also keep records on those they stop that are walking. This is not a great new challenge, however, in this day and age we should not be putting everyone in racial categories rather than seeing each other as individuals. We should be past the point when it was accepted that if one has a drop of blood of one race then that defines them. This legislation takes us backward 100 years.
Worst is Yet to Come
Expect other bills that would eliminate officer’s immunity from lawsuits and citizen boards that could override an officer’s actions.
Each of these proposals might seem to be reasonable to some, however, the question is, why are they going to change the law? The answer is simple. The goal is to intimidate officers from doing their job. Likewise, it will be a lawyer’s opportunity to enrich criminals at the taxpayer’s expense.
Frank Ruff Jr. serves as the 15th District senator in Virginia. He can be reached at Sen.Ruff@verizon.net, (434) 374-5129 or P.O. Box 332, Clarksville, VA 23927.
Last Wednesday, House Democrats had their second hearing on criminal justice reform. The testimony by speakers invited by House Democrats... read more