RICHMOND, Va. – Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration acknowledged this week, with early voting underway, that it is working to fix an error that caused an unknown number of eligible Virginians to be removed from the voter rolls.
State election officials are working with Virginia State Police to identify voters whose registration was “canceled in error” and begin the process of having those people immediately reinstated, Andrea Gaines, a spokesperson for the Department of Elections, told VPM News Tuesday.
The Richmond news outlet reported the problem appears to stem from recent changes the agency has made in an attempt to remove people from the rolls who had their voting rights restored by a governor but went on to be convicted of a new felony.
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 must be restored by a court.
VPM previously reported on the case of an Arlington County man who was taken off the voter rolls for a probation violation before being reinstated by a judge. The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia also said last week it had received “troubling reports” of Virginians having their voting rights revoked on the basis of technical probation violations, something it called “unprecedented and unconstitutional.”
The Republican administration’s acknowledgement of the problem comes amid the second week of early voting in this year’s hotly contested legislative elections. Every General Assembly seat will be on the ballot in an election cycle that will determine party control of the Assembly, which is divided.
Virginia Democrats said the episode was alarming.
“It is unacceptable that we are two weeks into early voting and the Youngkin administration does not even know how many Virginians they wrongfully purged from the voter rolls. Virginians are actively being disenfranchised in this election by extremist policies designed to make it harder to vote and easier to cheat,” Aaron Mukerjee, who serves as voter protection director for the Democratic Party of Virginia, said in a statement.
The state party chair, Susan Swecker, called for an investigation into the “weaponized incompetence of the Youngkin administration’s Department of Elections.”
Youngkin’s press office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday morning.
A spokesperson for Republican Attorney General Jason Miyares, who convened a new election integrity unit last year, also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Corinne Geller, a spokesperson for the Virginia State Police, told VPM the agency was making changes to the data it provided the Department of Elections to prevent further problems.
“At the request of the Virginia Department of Elections, and after consulting with the Office of the Attorney General, the monthly (Virginia Central Criminal Records Exchange) report no longer contains felony probation violation charges to not inadvertently disqualify individuals whose rights were previously restored by the former Governor,” Geller told VPM.