A troubling foray to Philly and other election observations

November 11, 2020 12:01 am

About 100 Trump supporters rallied outside the Virginia Department of Elections in November for a “Stop the Steal” event. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

A few thoughts about Election 2020 and its aftermath:

• Why did two men from Chesapeake – supporters of Republican candidates, and one an adherent to bizarre QAnon conspiracies – tote an AR-15 style rifle and handguns to Philadelphia while trying to monitor vote-counting in the closely contested Keystone State?

That’s what local and federal authorities said Antonio LaMotta, 61, and Joshua Macias, 42, did late last week in making the roughly 275-mile trip. Thank goodness someone dropped a dime on the pair so investigators expected them. Neither had a valid Pennsylvania firearms permit to carry; the state doesn’t recognize handgun permits from Virginia, which Macias had. 

The men reportedly wanted to “straighten things out” during the vote tabulation and drove a silver Hummer SUV to Philly. They carried about 160 rounds of ammunition, reports said. 

Nothing about the trek sounds benign. The rifle, in particular, wasn’t going to help decipher marks on a ballot.

LaMotta is a self-styled security contractor, former city of Chesapeake employee and QAnon conspiracy theorist. Macias is a co-founder of “Vets for Trump.” LaMotta also has supported Virginia state Sen. Amanda Chase, a Chesterfield Republican and 2021 candidate for governor. 

I’ll note here that President Donald Trump has repeatedly questioned absentee and mail-in votes and lied about their legitimacy. He’s voted by mail himself – yet has stoked his followers into thinking something is rotten. 

The Chesapeake men journeyed to Pennsylvania before the state’s 20 electoral votes put Democrat Joe Biden over the top Saturday, making him the president-elect. The local district attorney charged the men with felony and misdemeanor weapons counts. A woman who accompanied them was not charged. 

A Philadelphia prisons spokeswoman told me Tuesday the men remain in custody, each in lieu of $750,000 bail. 

• I hesitate to give Sen. Chase any more ink, since she seems to revel in the publicity. Yet her news conference over the weekend, in which she parroted GOP talking points that the presidential election was stolen without providing any proof of fraud, was reckless and incendiary. (Why? See above.)

Chase said wrongdoing even occurred here in the commonwealth. That’s insulting to poll workers, who toiled to make the process run smoothly in the face of a pandemic that’s killed more than 238,000 Americans. 

Some 4.4 million Virginians voted in the presidential contest this year, up from 4 million in 2016. Biden won easily, extending a string of recent Democratic victories in presidential and statewide contests.

I wanted to know the basis for her inflammatory claims, and why she flaunts the advice of wearing a mask to fight COVID-19. But Chase’s office didn’t respond to my questions by midday Tuesday.

The senator’s comments, among other actions, should disqualify her from the gubernatorial contest.

• Speaking of voting, recent changes in Virginia have gotten the attention of professors who rate each state’s ease of ballot casting. Northern Illinois University said the commonwealth was one of the worst states in which to vote in 2016, but it rose to 12th-easiest this year.

“Virginia’s move up the rankings was particularly dramatic,” the report said. “Specifically, Virginia’s state legislature approved an automatic voter registration law, got rid of the in-person registration deadline and made Election Day a state holiday, among other considerations.” 

That’s good for Virginians. After all, we have elections every year.

• This is rich: Trump said Biden shouldn’t claim victory after he won Pennsylvania, even though the Tweeter-in-Chief did the very same thing shortly after the polls closed – and before the bulk of absentee votes were counted around the country.

He doesn’t seem to grasp the meaning of the word “irony.” Nor did that stop Trump, so concerned about his fate, from playing golf Saturday and Sunday.

As I write this, Trump has refused to concede in the race. That’s making it difficult for Biden to work on the transition, including such valuable tasks as “State Department-facilitated calls with foreign leaders and access to secure facilities where they can review classified information,” The Washington Post reported. 

• Some state Democratic legislators ultimately opposed the referendum for a bipartisan redistricting commission. Not so their constituents.

Sixty-six percent of voters approved the constitutional amendment to establish a 16-person panel, composed of citizens and lawmakers. Voters were weary of the misshapen districts, blatant incumbent protection and legislative drift to the extremes.

The commission won’t be a panacea. But it will be better than the chicanery that occurs every 10 years following the latest census.


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Roger Chesley
Roger Chesley

Longtime columnist and editorial writer Roger Chesley worked at the (Newport News) Daily Press and The (Norfolk) Virginian-Pilot from 1997 through 2018. He previously worked at newspapers in Cherry Hill, N.J., and Detroit. Reach him at [email protected]