Following news that at least 275 Virginians were illegally removed from voter rolls, the commonwealth’s representatives in Washington are demanding an investigation into the Youngkin administration’s Department of Elections.
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 it quickly became clear that a number of these voters had their registrations revoked illegally. Media investigations revealed that an unknown number of these Virginians had not, in fact, committed new crimes; rather, they’d lost their right to vote because of technical probation violations – an illegal violation of their fundamental right to cast a ballot.
Last week, a spokesperson for Youngkin’s DOE admitted that the department was working with state police to identify Virginians whose registrations had been “canceled in error.”
Further, the ACLU of Virginia said that “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.” Election 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 regarding these voters’ registration cancellations may not have been provided in the timely manner required by state law.
With early voting already underway for Virginia’s November elections and Election Day itself less than a month away, the DOE’s error comes at an especially troubling time.
Now Democratic members of Virginia’s congressional delegation are calling for a federal investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) into these illegal disenfranchisements.
Both of Virginia’s senators and six representatives submitted a letter to the DOJ late last week calling for it to investigate “how these illegal removals happened” and how Youngkin’s DOE is working to ensure voters know that they’re eligible to cast their ballots in November.
“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 letter continued.
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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