For the first time in the memory of most Virginia voters -- and even of political party activists and election officials -- there will be two party primaries taking place statewide on Tuesday, June 14.
While there have been simultaneous primaries for local offices or General Assembly races in recent years, most jurisdictions have never had a dual primary for statewide races -- at least not since most localities began to adopt new voting equipment in the wake of technological advances and the Help America Vote Act of 2002.
The State Board of Elections has issued procedures for conducting the dual primary. Party officials should look over these rules and make sure that their voters understand them. I have encountered people who have been voting in Virginia for many years but who think that they are registered to vote by party. (Virginia has no party registration.)
Voters may be surprised by two things:
First, because Virginia has open primaries, some voters may expect they can vote in the Republican primary for governor and then cross over to vote in the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor. That's not permitted.
Second, voters may be surprised -- and some may be upset at the notion -- to learn that they must declare their choice of primary vocally. Some people may prefer that their neighbors not hear which party they prefer. The instructions are clear, however: after the voter indicates his choice of party, the election officer will repeat the choice in a voice loud enough to be heard by the other election officials and by any party or candidate representatives present, so that the choice can be marked properly in the pollbook.
Here are the procedures from the State Board of Elections. Voters, party officials, campaign activists, and candidates should all pay close attention so that problems are minimal on election day, June 14.
JUNE 2005 DUAL PRIMARY SPECIAL INSTRUCTIONS
A dual primary is actually two primary elections conducted concurrently. Some supplies and procedures are different from regular elections. The instructions below cover these differences and are a supplement to the usual instructions:
Voting Equipment Programming:
– Central Absentee Precinct
- If your county or city has a Central Absentee Precinct (CAP) and your locality has more than one congressional district, you must report the number of voters and the results for each statewide office for each Party’s Primary by congressional district. Please make certain that your voting equipment vendor is aware of this programming requirement.
- For All Precincts
In a dual primary, officers of election must
- Determine in which primary election the voter wishes to vote by asking the voter:
"Do you wish to vote in the Democratic Party Primary? OR
Do you wish to vote in the Republican Party Primary?"
- The voter must state their choice of primary to the pollbook officers out loud. The choice should be repeated by the officer so that any candidate representatives present may hear (and to confirm that the officer heard the choice correctly).
- All persons qualified to vote may vote in either primary. (§ 24.2-530)
- But, the voter may not vote in both primaries held on the same date, even if the desire is to vote for candidates running for different offices. (§ 24.2-530)
- No voter may be challenged on their choice of a primary. (§ 24.2-530)
- The choice to vote in a party's primary does not mean that the voter will be "registered" with that party.
- Each voter's name must be looked up in both parties' pollbooks at the same time, to make sure that the voter has not already voted in the other party's primary. For each division of the pollbook, place two pollbook officers side-by-side, with separate count sheets.
- Enter the AB in either the Democratic Pollbook or the Republican Pollbook, as appropriate.
- Enter the next Pollbook count number from either the Democratic Pollbook Count or the Republican Pollbook Count, as appropriate.
- Provide the voter with the appropriately colored entry permit (access card). Use a different color entry permit for each Party’s primary, e.g., blue for Democratic Party Primary and white for Republican Party Primary. The voting machine officer must direct the voter to the appropriate voting machine.
- Prepare two Statements of Results for the Democratic Primary Election and two for the Republican Primary Election
The fact that there are two separate elections being conducted does not require two completely separate teams of election officers, only that there be enough officers of each party to fill all of the required stations, including the all divisions of both pollbooks or sets of pollbooks.
For Punchcard Systems, officers of election must:
- Give the voter the official Democratic Primary ballot card (blue) or Republican Primary ballot card (white).
- Direct the voter to the voting booth designated for the Democratic Primary or the Republican Primary.
- Direct the voter to deposit either ballot card into one ballot counter before he leaves the polling place.
- If possible, the system should be programmed to separate the punchcards of one party into the bin normally used for ballots with write-in votes. If separated by the equipment, after the polls have closed the voted ballots should be placed into separate envelopes (or containers) with the name of the party marked on the outside of the envelope/container. (If not separated by the equipment, transmit the voted ballots in a combined container marked with both parties' names.)If ballot cards can be printed on colored paper, it would be helpful to do so and to use the same colors as the entry permits.
For Optical Scan Systems, officers of election must
- Give the voter the official Democratic Primary ballot or Republican Primary ballot.
- Direct the voter to deposit either ballot into one ballot counter before he leaves the polling place.
- If possible, the system should be programmed to separate the optical scan ballots of one party into the bin normally used for ballots with write-in votes. If separated by the equipment, after the polls have closed the voted ballots should be placed into separate envelopes (or containers) with the name of the party marked on the outside of the envelope/container. (If not separated by the equipment, transmit the voted ballots in a combined container marked with both parties' names.)If the optical scan ballots can be printed on colored paper it would be helpful to do so in the same colors as the entry permits.
For DRE Systems, the Electoral Board must:
- Set up each DRE with both the Democratic ballot and the Republican ballot.
- Officers of election must be instructed to hand the voter the access card for the Democratic Primary or the Republican Primary and direct the voter to the next available unit.
- Instruct the officers of election to verify that each voter is presented with the correct ballot based on the party in whose primary the voter has declared he/she wishes to participate.
For Mechanical Lever Machines the Electoral Board must:
- Set up each machine with both the Democratic and Republican Ballots.
- This will require the use of the Primary Lockout Lever which may have been used infrequently. It is important for the Electoral Board to verify that the Lockout lever works correctly and that the officers of election are properly instructed in the correct procedure for its use.
- Since voters using these machines will see both ballots displayed on the face of the machine it is critical that the officers of election be instructed to verify the voter’s preference for either the Democratic or Republican Party primary BEFORE setting the Primary lever for the correct party and pressing the entry button to activate the machine.
For Paper Ballots and Provisional Ballots:
- The officer must enter in the upper right-hand corner of the voter's Provisional Vote envelope either a D for Democratic Party Primary OR an R for Republican Party Primary.
- Ballots must be deposited into separate ballot containers marked "Democratic Primary" and "Republican Primary." (A combined container with a divider, and a slot on each side, may be used.)
- After the polls have closed, the voted ballots should be placed into separate envelopes (or containers) with the name of the party marked on the outside of the envelope/container.
- Provisional ballots must be referred to the Electoral Board in separate envelopes marked with the name of the party on the outside.