Shaun Brown, a Hampton businesswoman running as an independent in the tightly contested race for the 2nd District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, will remain on the ballot despite an investigation into the validity of some signatures collected for her by the incumbent Republican congressman’s campaign staff.
The Virginia Department of Elections reviewed 2,163 signatures submitted on Brown’s behalf. Recent reports revealed at least one signature belonged to a dead man and a state lawmaker has cast doubts on the appearance of his name in a petition, but the state deemed that 1,030 signatures were acceptable.
Those two disputed signatures — and others — were tossed out by the state and didn’t count toward the 1,000 signatures Brown needed to get on the ballot as an independent candidate.
The signatures that have been publicly questioned were submitted by paid staff of U.S. Rep. Scott Taylor, a Virginia Beach Republican and one of Brown’s opponents, and has prompted an investigation into violations of election law and forgery.
Brown ran against Taylor in 2016 as a Democrat but wasn’t considered for her party’s nomination this year. She announced her intent to run in April while facing federal fraud charges. Her trial for those charges will pick up again in October.
To get on the ballot, Brown had to collect 1,000 signatures from registered voters in the district she’s running in, which includes parts of Virginia Beach, the Peninsula and the Eastern Shore.
The state then checks to make sure if a name belongs to more than one voter, there’s a matching address reported with it. If there isn’t, and the signer didn’t provide a Social Security number, the state determines that person can’t be identified and isn’t counted.
Signatures can be thrown out if state staff can’t read them, if their information is incomplete or if the person didn’t register to vote before the petition was submitted.
Daniel Bohner circulated 10 pages of petitions on Brown’s behalf. The state wasn’t able to verify dozens of the signatures he turned in. Of the 62 signatures Bohner collected in York County, Poquoson, Virginia Beach and Williamsburg, the state counted 27 of them toward Brown’s total.
Bohner shares an address with Orville D. Bohner, who received $600 for consulting on Taylor’s campaign this year until the end of June, according to campaign finance reports.
Daniel Bohner’s petitions included a version of the name of Del. Glenn Davis, R-Virginia Beach, that was misspelled and attached to the wrong address. Davis confirmed he signed a different petition in support of getting Brown on the ballot.
It’s not clear yet which people or signatures are being investigated. Virginia Beach Commonwealth’s Attorney Colin Stolle appointed Roanoke’s Commonwealth’s Attorney Donald Caldwell to lead the case.
Colin Stolle’s brother and Virginia Beach Sheriff Ken Stolle was one of the people who signed a petition for Brown circulated by Taylor’s staff. Ken Stolle confirmed he signed it, and his signature was one of the 1,030 the state accepted.
Taylor knows his staff collected signatures on Brown’s behalf. He said his staff felt like Brown was unfairly shut out of the primary process and did the work in their own time.
Taylor has said he has fired a campaign staff member, though it was before the controversy arose over the signatures.
UPDATE: This story’s headline has been edited to more accurately reflect the status of the inquiry into nominating petitions submitted on behalf of Shaun Brown.