Virginian-Pilot: Virginia Democrats call for Justice Department investigation into ‘purged’ voter rolls

VIRGINIAN-PILOT, KATIE KING

Virginia’s Democratic congressional delegation is calling for a federal investigation into reports that Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration has removed thousands of eligible voters from the state’s rolls.

In a letter sent Friday to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, the delegation explained the Virginia Department of Elections acknowledged earlier this month that over the last nine months, it removed more than 10,000 individuals from state voter rolls whose voting rights had been restored.

“This includes an unknown number of individuals with technical probation violations, not new felony convictions, who have been purged from voter rolls without notice after having their rights fully restored,” the letter states. “This widespread error creates an enormous barrier to the democratic process for these affected Virginians while early voting has already begun for this November’s election.”

The delegation urged the department to investigate the reports as possible violations of the Voting Rights Act or other federal laws.

The letter was signed by U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine and Reps. Bobby Scott, Gerry Connolly, Donald Beyer, Abigail Spanberger, Jennifer Wexton and Jennifer McClellan.

DOJ spokesperson Aryele Bradford confirmed the department received the letter but declined further comment.

Youngkin spokesperson Macaulay Porter said Tuesday a review is underway to identify and reinstate any qualified voters mistakenly removed from rolls.

“When the governor’s office became aware of the inconsistencies regarding the misclassification of probation violations as felonies, as had been the process in previous administrations, he asked for VSP to correct the process and ordered a review,” she said. “While analysis is still ongoing, we are aware of fewer than 300 voters who were impacted and those individuals are being reinstated.”

Early voting is underway in Virginia, where all 140 General Assembly seats are up for reelection Nov. 7.

The letter stated the matter was especially alarming given the “previous issues” with Virginia’s voter registration systems. The lawmakers demanded the Department of Justice investigate how the removals happened and what is being done to ensure those whose names were removed “are informed so that they will know that they are in fact properly registered to vote in this election.”

Virginia’s voting systems and policies are in a period of upheaval.

Those with a felony conviction automatically lose the right to vote in Virginia. The only way to restore it is by receiving approval from the governor after completing sentencing requirements. The three previous administrations — starting with Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell — each pushed to speed up the process.

Youngkin, however, moved in the opposite direction, quietly implementing a new policy of evaluating applicants on an individual basis using unspecified criteria. The policy change led to a notable slowdown in Virginians getting their voting rights restored.

Another major change: Virginia pulled its membership from the Electronic Registration Information Center in May. The nonpartisan, multistate program is intended to help states maintain more accurate voter rolls and detect illegal voting.

These changes also come after state errors in processing voter registrations left local registrars working overtime to process a backlog of more than 100,000 new voter registration applications, address updates and other voter information changes submitted through the Department of Motor Vehicles.

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