Seventeen signatures is just ‘the tip of the iceberg’ in 2nd District petition controversy, attorney says

By: - August 10, 2018 6:05 am

Outgoing U.S. Rep. Scott Taylor, a Republican from Virginia Beach. Photo via the U.S. House of Representatives.

The math is in candidate Shaun Brown’s favor, for now.

On Wednesday, Marc Elias, an attorney representing the Virginia Democratic Party, sent 17 affidavits to Attorney General Mark Herring from people who said they or their relatives didn’t sign petitions to get Brown on the ballot in the 2nd District congressional race.

And there’s likely more, Elias wrote in his letter, so Brown should be removed from the ballot.

“It is clear that the incidents of fraudulent signatures on the petition that have been reported in recent days in the press are far from isolated,” Elias wrote. “To the contrary, they represent the tip of the iceberg.”

The petitions in question were circulated in early June by members of U.S. Rep. Scott Taylor’s staff.

Brown, who failed to win the Democratic nomination to challenge the Virginia Beach Republican, is running as an independent. But Taylor’s campaign worked to get her on the ballot, presumably to draw votes from the actual Democratic nominee, Elaine Luria.  

Of the 17 people in the affidavits Elias sent to Herring, 14 of them were counted among the 1,030 signatures that passed muster with the Department of Elections.

State election officials had already tossed three of those signatures during their regular review process.

Two of the signatures Elias identified and the state discarded belonged to men who, according to their spouses, died before the date on the petitions. A Virginia Beach man who said in an affidavit that he didn’t sign the petition also wasn’t counted by the state, according a Department of Elections petition report.

The state couldn’t verify those voters’ information, so they didn’t get counted toward the 1,000 signatures from 2nd District voters Brown needed to get on the ballot, according to the report. The 2nd District includes parts of Virginia Beach, the Peninsula and the Eastern Shore.

In the last week, reports surfaced that some signatures might be fraudulent. In one instance, Republican Del. Glenn Davis’ name was on two petitions — one of which he said he didn’t sign.

An investigation is under way  by the Roanoke Commonwealth’s Attorney. Virginia Beach Commonwealth’s Attorney Colin Stolle appointed a different prosecutor because his brother, Virginia Beach Sheriff Ken Stolle, signed Brown’s petition. Ken Stolle is not disputing his signature.

“We have been in touch with both the special prosecutor and the Department of Elections and will continue to work with them as appropriate while the investigation and information gathering process continues,” wrote Charlotte Gomer, spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s Office.

Herring “can’t unilaterally take off or add people to a ballot,” Gomer said.

The Department Elections would not comment, citing the ongoing investigation. Spokeswoman Andrea Gaines would not provide general information on when the department has the authority to remove a candidate from the ballot and under what circumstances that would happen.

Brown got on the ballot while facing federal fraud charges.

The Department of Elections reviewed 2,163 signatures submitted on her behalf. Staff verified 1,030 of those.

Members of Taylor’s staff circulated 60 pages of petitions for Brown and collected more than 700 signatures, which Taylor has acknowledged. 

He said that Brown, who ran against him as a Democrat in 2016, was unfairly shut out of her party’s primary when the national party “hand-picked” Luria, a Norfolk businesswoman.

“If any one in my campaign did anything that was wrong or illegal … I would fire them in a second,” Taylor said in a Facebook Live video addressing the early allegations.

Since then, Taylor confirmed he severed ties with one of his staff members recently, but it was not related to the signatures.

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Mechelle Hankerson
Mechelle Hankerson

Mechelle, born and raised in Virginia Beach, is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University with a degree in mass communications and a concentration in print journalism. She covered the General Assembly for the university’s Capital News Service and was among 12 student journalists in swing states selected by the Washington Post to cover the 2012 presidential election. For the past five years, she has covered local government, crime, housing, infrastructure and other issues at the Raleigh News & Observer and The Virginian-Pilot, where she most recently covered the state’s biggest city, Virginia Beach. Mechelle was with the Virginia Mercury until January 3rd, 2019.