Following news that an unknown number of Virginians have been illegally removed from voter rolls, pro-democracy groups are condemning the Youngkin administration for the state Department of Elections’ actions.
A recent report released by the Virginia Department of Elections (DOE) announced that the department had removed over 17,000 people from state voter rolls over the past year who had previously had their voting rights restored by a governor but had been convicted of a new felony. The DOE – run by Youngkin appointee and longtime GOP political operative Susan Beals – said that these removals were the result of a newly “automated” process.
But after a state judge found that an Arlington County man had been stripped of his voting rights for committing a probation violation, not a new felony, an investigation by Virginia Public Media suggested that similar illegal disenfranchisements were more widespread.
ACLU of Virginia policy strategist Shawn Weneta announced that the organization received reports of illegal disenfranchisement over technical probation violations from a number of Virginians whose rights had been restored by past governors.
“Even worse, multiple Virginians informed us that they received no notice from the Youngkin administration of the Board of Elections of the loss of their voting rights,” Weneta continued. The Registrars are required to notify voters of changes to their voter registration records but can only do so after being informed by the DOE, suggesting that the information may not have been provided in the timely manner required by state law.
This week, a spokesperson for DOE announced that the department has begun working with state police to identify Virginians whose registrations had been “canceled in error.”
It’s unclear how long this identification process will take, and even after illegally disenfranchised voters have been IDed, notifying and remedying the problem will likely take even longer. With early voting already underway for Virginia’s November elections and Election Day itself barely a month away, the discovery of the DOE’s error comes at an especially troubling time.
Weneta told VPM that the DOE’s actions “have already had a chilling effect on Virginians’ participation in early voting.”
Democratic Party of Virginia chair Susan Swecker has called for an investigation into the “weaponized incompetence” of Youngkin’s DOE.
“This illegal purge is a criminal affront to the basic foundations of democracy and further underscore the ways in which MAGA Republicans are working to subvert the functions of our democratic process,” said Swecker.
Virginia is the only state in the nation that automatically disenfranchises every voter convicted of a felony. Per the state constitution, only a governor can restore the voting rights to people disenfranchised this way. Earlier this year, Youngkin announced that he had rescinded a policy of automatically restoring voting rights to those who have completed felony sentences.
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