Tommy Wright: Let’s talk about elections

Published 12:00 pm Thursday, June 20, 2024

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Free and fair elections are worthless if the public doesn’t trust the outcome. Trust in Virginia’s electoral system has been eroding steadily since 2020, when numerous changes due to COVID, safeguards removed by Democrats, and a national drumbeat of “rigged” elections all occurred at the same time.

Democrats have now made it worse. The 2024-2026 Biennial Budget specifically precludes a “risk-limiting audit” of this year’s Presidential election.

Virginia will not conduct a risk limiting audit of the results of the 2024 Presidential election, despite having done so in 2020. The reason? Democrats forced language into the state budget blocking such an audit from taking place.

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A House Democrat put in the original budget amendment, arguing that existing law requiring the audit be done before certification might cause Virginia to miss the December 11 deadline for reporting its chosen Presidential Electors to the Archivist of the United States.

“People are worried about any excuse someone might make for not certifying the election,” Sickles said in an interview. “After what happened last time, people are kind of sensitive about what things people might use to try tying things up in litigation.”

Federal law requires the courts to move as quickly as possible to adjudicate disputes over Electors. Nonetheless, missing the deadline could prevent Virginia’s 13 electoral votes from being counted.

The budget does NOT preclude an audit of the U.S. Senate race. A 2022 law requires that the audit be complete before the results are certified.

The 2020 audit began in February and was not completed until the end of March. A risk-limiting audit involves the selection of a random number of random ballots from precincts all over Virginia and comparing them with the reported result.

The audit is not a full recount or manual verification of all ballots. It is a hand verification of ballots until there is strong statistical evidence that the reported outcome is the actual outcome.

Closer elections require the examination of more ballots – such that in some cases, it is simpler to conduct a full manual recount of the election.

In 2020, an audit of the Presidential election found a 99.99993 percent chance that Biden was the winner in Virginia as reported by the state’s vote tabulation machines.

Regardless of the practicalities of timing, this language is another blow to trust in Virginia’s elections. If Democrats are serious about restoring trust, they should work to expedite the audit process, not cut it out entirely.

Make no mistake, Virginia elections are among the best run in the nation. Fraud, if any, occurs in terms of single votes, not large numbers of election-swaying ballots. Nonetheless, trust and public confidence are the foundation of our system.

Republicans have been working continuously to restore that trust and will continue to do so. This change doesn’t help.


Senate Democrats just don’t seem to be getting the message re: the Virginia Military Spouse and Dependent Education Program. House Republican and Democrats (after a little pressure) agreed that the changes passed earlier this year need to go. Senate Democrats aren’t convinced yet.

Virginia’s veterans and Gold Star families have made it abundantly clear: we must repeal the changes made to VMSDEP earlier this year ASAP.

House Republicans recognized this early, and after a bit of political pressure, House Democrats joined us.

The House will return to Richmond on June 28 to repeal the changes. Senate Democrats have been slower to come around. Senators will convene on Tuesday with two competing bills.

One, brought by Senator Reeves, is a clean repeal of the changes to VMSDEP with an eye toward changes being made in the 2025 regular session. The Reeves bill, SB 6003, has 19 copatrons, including two Democrats.

Senator Lucas has a competing bill that makes several changes to the existing budget, including revenue revisions and bonding changes. Her bill, SB 6005, appears to undo most of the objectionable changes to VMSDEP, but it does so in the form of amendments, rather than a clean repeal.

The Senate also has a skill game bill.

VMSDEP isn’t perfect, but any changes need to be made in a regular session after a great deal of public contemplation. Gold Star families and disabled veterans deserve no less. Republicans are listening to our Gold Star families. We will not stop working until we’ve fixed the Virginia Military Dependent and Survivors Education Program.

DEL. TOMMY WRIGHT can be reached via email at or (804) 698-1061.