Glenn Youngkin just removed 3400 legal residents from voting in Virgina. This is how Republicans win. They lie cheat and steal.
Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s elections team has admitted in the run-up to pivotal General Assembly elections that it removed nearly 3,400 qualified voters from the state’s rolls, far higher than the administration’s previous estimate of 270.
Administration officials were initially dismissive of the problem when public radio station VPM first identified it in September, but they announced in early October that about 270 voters had been mistakenly removed. Even that smaller number was enough to prompt Democratic Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine of Virginia to seek a federal investigation. In a letter, they urged U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to probe whether the administration’s “purge” violated the Voting Right Act.
Now the 3,400 figure has heightened those concerns. Although that number represents a tiny fraction of the state’s nearly 6 million registered voters, control of the state House and Senate could come down to a handful of very tight races.
More broadly, Democrats say the administration’s shifting accounts cast doubt on the intentions and competence of Youngkin, who won the governorship two years ago promising to bring “election integrity” and business-world management savvy to state government.
“I’ve been calling it weaponized incompetence,” Aaron Mukerjee, voter protection director for the Democratic Party of Virginia, said on Sunday. “First they said it was not a problem at all. Then they said it was a small, very contained problem. And now we’ve learned it’s a massive problem. I think it goes to the point that this administration can’t be trusted with the voting rights of Virginians.”
Youngkin spokeswoman Macaulay Porter directed questions to the Elections Department, which said in its news release that it “worked diligently [with State Police] to review and check each canceled record to ensure all impacted voters are reinstated.”
Lyn McDermid, Youngkin’s secretary of administration, defended the governor’s intentions in a letter sent last week to Mary Bauer, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, which had sought information about the voter removals.
“Governor Youngkin believes that every eligible Virginian should exercise his or her right to vote,” McDermid wrote, adding that the governor was “deeply concerned” about the errant removals, according to a copy of the letter posted by VPM.
Youngkin has asked the state’s inspector general to investigate the removals — as well as the administration’s “preliminary findings” that an unknown number of people who’d had their rights restored may have been allowed to stay on the rolls in the past after subsequent felony convictions, the letter said.
Virginia is one of a handful of states that limits voting access after a felony conviction. The commonwealth permanently disenfranchises those guilty of violent or nonviolent felonies unless the governor restores their civil rights.
Youngkin’s three immediate predecessors — one Republican, two Democrats — took steps to automatically restore rights in at least some cases once their sentences were complete. Youngkin has reverted to a stricter policy requiring each person to file an application that the administration considers on a case-by-case basis, with no publicly disclosed criteria.
Youngkin’s Elections Department announced late last year it had discovered 10,588 people on the state’s voter rolls who were ineligible to vote because of felony convictions. At the time, elections officials said they’d uncovered a flaw in the state’s aging elections software — one that allowed people who’d committed a felony, had their voting rights restored and then committed a subsequent felony to remain on the rolls.
The original software code, written under a previous administration, did not account for the possibility that voters who regain their voting rights might later be convicted of a new felony, Youngkin administration officials said. Once the code was updated, however, the system failed to distinguish between probation violations committed by restored voters and entirely new felonies.
Youngkin’s elections team has drawn scrutiny for other problems, including major backlogs in processing “motor voter” registrations in October 2022, just ahead of midterm congressional races. The Elections Department belatedly sent two batches of “motor voter” registration applications to local registrars for last-minute processing — 107,000 in the first batch, 149,000 in the second. The department blamed computer problems with the state’s long-troubled voter registration system, which is known as VERIS and dates to about 2007.
In May, Youngkin pulled Virginia out of the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), a data-sharing group that red and blue states alike relied on for the past decade to keep voter rolls updated before election deniers made it the focus of criticism. Virginia had been a founding member of the group under Republican Gov. Robert F. McDonnell.