RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration said this week, with early voting underway, that it is working to fix an issue that misclassified probation violations as felonies and has led to an unknown number of eligible Virginians being removed from the voter rolls.
State election officials are working with Virginia State Police to identify voters whose registration “may have been canceled in error” and begin the process of having those people reinstated, Andrea Gaines, a spokeswoman for the Department of Elections, said in a statement Wednesday.
“We are taking great care to identify each person affected and working to reinstate their registration immediately,” said Susan Beals, commissioner of the Department of Elections.
Gaines said that as part of the routine process of keeping an up-to-date voter list, the department receives a monthly file from Virginia State Police containing felony convictions.
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 can be restored by a court.
The elections department, Gaines said, “was recently informed that these files received from VSP may contain probation violation convictions.”
The department asked state police to analyze their data to determine who may have been canceled in error.
“Once that data is received, ELECT will send those names to registrars” to have those voters’ registrations “reinstated immediately,” Gaines’ statement said.
Macaulay Porter, a spokeswoman for the Republican governor, said in an emailed statement that once Youngkin’s office “became aware of the inconsistencies regarding the misclassification of probation violations as felonies,” the governor asked state police to “correct the process” and ordered a review.
“The Governor is committed to ensuring those that are eligible can vote and those affected will have their registration reinstated,” Porter said.
VPM, which first covered the administration’s acknowledgement of the issue, 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.”
It’s 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,” 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.”
Victoria LaCivita, a spokeswoman for Republican Attorney General Jason Miyares, said in a statement that the office can’t comment on advice it has provided the elections department or state police.
“However, we are confident that the matter is being resolved as quickly as possible,” she said.
Corinne Geller, a spokeswoman for the Virginia State Police, said the agency was making changes to the data it provided the Department of Elections.
“At the request of the Virginia Department of Elections, and after consulting with the Office of the Attorney General,” Geller said, the monthly 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.”
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