Four Buckingham County election officials have quit their jobs in recent months after the newly Republican-controlled county election board baselessly accused the general registrar’s office of implementing policies that led to voter fraud, according to a report from NBC News.
According to the report, one staff member quit in February, and the other three quit in March. They say their resignations were prompted by recent, baseless claims of voter fraud made by local Republicans.
Tensions began rising between local Republican officials and the registrar around the time of the midterm elections in Nov. 2022. And in January, Republicans assumed control of the Buckingham County Electoral Board, which oversees the office the four staffers resigned from.
Even though the county overwhelmingly votes Republican, Buckingham County Republican Committee Chairwoman Ramona Christian—who hand-picked two of the board’s three members—claimed that there were not enough Republican poll workers in last November’s elections, suggesting this led to fraud.
According to Virginia law, a group of election officers should be made up of an equal number of Republicans and Democrats, and no more than a third should be unaffiliated with either party. But neither party nominated poll workers at the start of the year, and the majority of the volunteers preferred to identify themselves as unaffiliated, according to former General Registrar Lindsey Taylor, one of the staffers who resigned.
Local Republican chair Christian also claimed that ballots arrived at the registrar’s office after she expected them to, and that a close school board race with absentee ballots suggested fraud. In that race, Democrat Michelle Ford won by nine votes.
Christian seemingly blamed these baseless infractions on Taylor. She went so far as to say she was putting Taylor on notice for treason and called for an audit of some ballots.
A county resident brought the Buckingham Commonwealth’s attorney, Kemper Beasley III, Christian’s allegations, and Beasley told NBC News that he found no evidence of criminal election fraud, let alone treason.
“I couldn’t find anything criminal,” he said. “The former registrar, in my mind, did an excellent job.”
Now, residents of Buckingham County are left without a functioning voter registrar’s office. This means that temporarily, there is no way to register to vote or certify candidate paperwork. As NBC News noted, a state elections worker arrived in town a week later and has since begun the process of restaffing the “completely barren” department, though there is no word yet on when new staff members will be hired.
The impact of such dysfunction could be significant, as all 40 seats of the Virginia Senate and 100 seats of the House of Delegates will be up for election on Nov. 7. Many local offices will be on the ballot that day as well, including ones in Buckingham County.
In recent years, communities have had to deal with the consequences of former president Donald Trump’s lies about stolen elections, leading to increased harassment of election officials and even death threats. In Buckingham County and elsewhere, this has led to an exodus of election workers tasked with ensuring smooth, fair, and free elections.
“A lot of election officials I’ve talked to are asking themselves: Why am I doing this? Why am I getting paid like a civil servant to be constantly harassed?” David Becker, executive director of the nonpartisan Center for Election Innovation and Research told NBC. “Whether it’s the intent or not, the effect is to drive a lot of these public servants — upon whom we’ve relied for decades in some cases — out of the field, which will leave elections more vulnerable than they’ve been before.”
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