latest news- What has AG Miyares' newly formed Election Integrity Unit found so far? Virginia NAACP says not much breaking news

When Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares announced the formation of an Election Integrity Unit in September, questions swirled about the type of work it would do. While the attorney general’s office said it’s investigated complaints, provided legal a...

latest news- What has AG Miyares' newly formed Election Integrity Unit found so far? Virginia NAACP says not much breaking news

When Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares announced the formation of an Election Integrity Unit in September, questions swirled about the type of work it would do. While the attorney general’s office said it’s investigated complaints, provided legal a...

latest news- What has AG Miyares' newly formed Election Integrity Unit found so far? Virginia NAACP says not much breaking news
30 Kasım 2022 - 01:25

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When Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares announced the formation of an Election Integrity Unit in September, questions swirled about the type of work it would do.

While the attorney general’s office said it’s investigated complaints, provided legal advice, and intervened in three specific legal issues related to the election, the Virginia NAACP is critical of the investigative unit’s scope of work.

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On Tuesday, the group said records it obtained from the state Attorney General’s Election Integrity Unit showed no credible reports of election fraud in the most recent election cycle, and no record of “election cheating” dating back to 2008.

When Miyares, a Republican, announced the formation of the unit, he said it would “provide legal advice to the Department of Elections, investigate and prosecute violations of Virginia election law, work with the election community throughout the year to ensure uniformity and legality in application of election laws, and work with law enforcement to ensure legality and purity in elections.” But exactly what that would mean in practice has been unclear.

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Such state-level units have formed in several Republican-led states since the 2020 elections, when former President Donald Trump spread false claims about election fraud. Democrats have questioned the intention and need of the investigative units.

The Virginia NAACP sought more clarity on the scope of the unit’s work, and filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking public records related to the unit and any evidence of voter fraud or “election cheating” it was created to combat. On Tuesday, the NAACP released the documents it received in response. Robert Barnette Jr., president of the Virginia NAACP, said there is no significant issue with voter fraud in the state that would warrant the creation of a special unit.

Specifically, the attorney general’s office told the NAACP it had “no records” regarding the staffing, supervision or reporting structure of the unit, on the approval process for investigations or activity, on the internal guidelines and procedures for performance, or on the statutes the unit is tasked with enforcing, according to the NAACP.

The responsive documents from the attorney general provided by the NAACP show complaints dating only from January 2020 to January 2022.

“This Unit is plainly a paper tiger, a public-relations ploy, to pander to the election deniers and conspiracy theorists who are the real force undermining public confidence in our elections,” Barnette said in a news conference.

Publicly, the attorney general’s office has provided limited information about its recent activities. The unit is made up of 20 attorneys, investigators and paralegals who were already working on election issues within Miyares’ office.

Investigators from the unit provided legal advice to at least one local election office and intervened in three specific legal issues related to the election, according to Miyares’ spokesperson Victoria LaCivita.

LaCivita confirmed the unit received complaints but she declined to comment further on how many there were. She also declined to identify the jurisdictions where the complaints were made, or to describe the nature of the complaints, saying she “cannot comment on anything that may or may not be subject to investigation.”

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Perhaps the biggest disruption to this year’s election was the 149,000 late voter registration transactions submitted through the Department of Motor Vehicles caused by “intermittent network issues,” which were dumped on Virginia’s election offices to process in the month before the election. It was not the unit’s responsibility to catch this issue, LaCivita said, because it was “an issue within the DMV.”

However, the unit did provide legal advice to its client, the Department of Elections, about the voter registration transaction issue.

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On Election Day, the unit was on-hand all day to assist the Department of Elections with “multiple legal issues, answer questions, and provide advice or coordination of legal services,” LaCivita said.

Prior to Nov. 8, the unit also intervened in at least three specific legal issues related to the election. It sent a cease and desist letter to the progressive political organization Movement Labs, which sent text messages to voters statewide inaccurately stating that “polling locations may change up until the last minute.”

Movement Labs released a statement Nov. 1 acknowledging the mistake and pledged to conduct an investigation and make their findings public.

“Unfortunately, in text messages sent on behalf of Voto Latino, Black Voters Matter, and Voting Futures to voters in KS, NJ, IL, NC, and VA, we sent information to encourage voting that has caused confusion amongst voters,” Movement Labs CEO Yoni Landau said. “We take full responsibility for these mistakes and have issued correction texts encouraging voters to verify their voting place with the secretary of state website.”

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When the Office of the Attorney General was named in a lawsuit filed by James Renwick Manship seeking an injunction to temporarily stop Virginia’s use of electronic voting machines in favor of a statewide hand count, the unit stepped in and won a motion to dismiss the day before the election.

The unit also stopped a polling location in Blackstone from extending its hours of operation from 7 to 8 p.m. on Election Day, arguing there was not “sufficient reason” to extend its hours and that proper notice was not given to voters or to candidates.

Gavin Stone, 757-712-4806, gavin.stone@virginiamedia.com



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