ASSOCIATED PRESS, SARAH RANKIN
The Democratic members of Virginia’s congressional delegation have called on the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate after an apparent administrative error led to at least 275 people being improperly removed from the state’s voter rolls.
Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration acknowledged last week that it was working to address the problem, which it said stemmed from a misclassification of felony probation violations as felony convictions in data transmitted to the elections department by the state police.
In Virginia, a felony conviction automatically results in the loss of a person’s civil rights, such as the right to vote, serve on a jury, run for office and carry a firearm. The governor has the sole discretion to restore those civil rights, apart from firearm rights, which can be restored by a court.
Officials initially said the number of impacted voters was unclear; they have since said that 275 have been identified so far, all of whom will be quickly reinstated to the voter rolls.
A letter from the state’s two Democratic senators and six Democratic members of the House said the error has created a “barrier to the democratic process for these affected Virginians” with early voting already underway for the November election. It called on DOJ to look into the matter as a possible violation of the Voting Rights Act or other federal laws.
“We request immediate action by the Department of Justice to investigate how these recent removals happened and what is being done to ensure that those whose names were illegally removed from the voting rolls are informed so that they will know that they are in fact properly registered to vote in this election,” said the letter, which was sent Friday to Attorney General Merrick Garland and highlighted by some members in news releases Tuesday.
The Virginia Department of Elections said in a statement Tuesday that impacted voters will receive written notification that their registrations have been reinstated.
It also offered some pushback against the letter, saying it incorrectly claimed that voters were purged “without notice.”
“This is false. Anytime a voter’s registration is cancelled for any reason, they are mailed a written notice from their local general registrar,” the department’s statement said.
Macaulay Porter, a spokeswoman for Youngkin, said in a statement that the effort to determine which voters may have been improperly removed was ongoing.
“The governor is committed to ensuring those that are eligible, can vote,” Porter said.
Aryele Bradford, a spokesperson for the DOJ, said in an email that the department had received the letter but declined further comment.
Corinne Geller, a spokeswoman for the Virginia State Police, said the agency had not been contacted by DOJ about the matter. The agency has said previously it was making changes to the data it provided the Department of Elections.
The letter was signed by U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine and Reps. Robert “Bobby” Scott, Gerry Connolly, Donald Beyer, Abigail Spanberger, Jennifer Wexton and Jennifer McClellan.
Every Virginia legislative seat is on the ballot this year.