Virginia fails to police voter rolls, critics charge
BREAKDOWN: Vote watcher Reagan George says accountability and common sense are lacking in enforcement of election laws.
By Kenric Ward | Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau
RICHMOND, Va. — Election officials say they will send letters to Virginians who have moved out of state, asking that they remove themselves from voter-registration lists here.
Vote-integrity groups say that’s too little, and far too late.
“Election legitimacy is being sacrificed on the altar of convenience,” said Reagan George, president of the Virginia Voters Alliance.
Responding to reports of tens of thousands of duplicate voter registrations in Virginia and Maryland, state Board of Elections Secretary Don Palmer promised a “full report” in August.
But with primary elections upcoming in swing-state Virginia, at least one local official said the state board should be more proactive in policing voter lists.
Citing the case of a Chesterfield registrar who refused to cleanse his voting list prior to the 2013 November election, Clara Belle Wheeler, a member of the Albemarle County Election Board, declared:
“When a registrar has the audacity to say I’m not going to pay any attention (to duplicate-voter data), I will stand here and tell you that person should be removed from office.”
“We need to use the crosscheck data (from other states). Voter fraud is real,” she said.
Palmer put the onus of responsibility on voters. He urged local registrars to “improve voter education.”
Meantime, Watchdog.org has learned of numerous instances where Virginians’ voter registrations remain active years after they moved out state.
Robert Moore told Watchdog he moved from Fairfax County to Contra Costa County, Calif., in 1999 — missing almost 15 years of Virginia elections. Yet his name remains on the Fairfax voter rolls.
“It’s a running joke with my mom, who sees my name on the precinct list every time she votes,” he said.
Moore said he informed California election officials of his move when he registered to vote there.
George said “notification (of moves) may or may not occur at any step.” He blamed “bureaucratic inertia and a patchwork quilt of laws that may not make sense.”
Wheeler called rules relating to transient voters “so convoluted that people don’t bother.”
Noting an example of a Virginian who relocates from Albemarle County to Sumter, S.C., Wheeler explained the voter is “supposed to say” where he or she was previously registered.
“The registrar is then supposed to forward the name for removal in Virginia. Then Albemarle is supposed to send a card to the new Sumter address. If there is no response, a card is sent to the old address.”
“If they don’t get a response, the assumption is there was no move. We clearly need a better system,” Wheeler said.
George complained there is “no feedback” between state and local boards in Virginia.
“But the state board has the tools. Maybe state law has to be changed,” he suggested.
Jay DeLancy, executive director of the Voter Integrity Project of North Carolina, said he has spoken with Tar Heel state residents who “brag” that they vote in southern Virginia.
DeLancy criticized Virginia officials for not releasing data from 26 other states that crosscheck voter-registration lists with the commonwealth.
“They all seem to be of the same mind: ‘It isn’t fraud unless we tell the public about it,’” he said.
Kenric Ward is chief of Watchdog.org’s Virginia Bureau. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (571) 319-9824. @Kenricward