Members of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee were told Thursday that state officials face threats of physical violence, supply chain challenges and funding shortfalls that will make administration of this year’s midterm elections more difficult. (SDI Productions/Getty Images)
The state Attorney General’s Office doth protest too much.
Victoria LaCivita, spokeswoman for Attorney General Jason Miyares, says the Virginia NAACP owes the office’s lawyers and other employees “an apology” for reputedly “groundless attacks” about starting a 20-person election integrity unit to root out voting irregularities.
She and Miyares shouldn’t hold their breaths.
The NAACP blasted the unit at a news conference this week after obtaining documents about it under the Freedom of Information Act. The integrity unit is “a public relations ploy to pander to election deniers and conspiracy theorists, who are the real force undermining public confidence in our elections,” said NAACP Virginia President Robert N. Barnette Jr.
He and other critics are right.
Context here is essential:
Miyares created the office after insurrectionists had attacked the U.S. Capitol in early 2021 while attempting to overturn the presidential election results. Donald Trump had incited his supporters after repeatedly lying about Joe Biden’s victory.
Virginia is one of three states that created special units after the 2020 election, all involving Republican governors, attorneys general or legislatures. Their “discoveries” of wrongdoing have been negligible – especially given the total number of ballots cast. They haven’t uncovered systemic problems, the Associated Press reported.
Meanwhile, a 2021 state audit in Virginia verified Biden’s comfortable win in the commonwealth. Similarly, an audit this year found the 2021 statewide results – in which Miyares and other Republicans won – accurate, too.
The state unit is prosecuting a former top election official in Prince William County over misconduct allegations. But its creation is overblown given the lack of electoral problems in Virginia.
“The unit was both a restructuring of resources already existing in the office,” LaCivita told me by email Thursday, “and a fulfillment of a campaign promise, because Virginians expressed concerns to him about our elections as he traveled across the Commonwealth.”
If those concerns are irrational, though, should they be indulged? Isn’t it better to proclaim the system’s reliability and accuracy, as obviously is the case?
True, the AG’s office has often noted Virginia’s election system is strong – as Miyares wrote in a Washington Post op-ed in October. “There was no widespread voter fraud in Virginia or elsewhere in the country,” he said.
Too bad the attorney general neglected to say that in the Sept. 9 announcement of the unit’s start. The omission was glaring.
So, what other units will his office create when there’s scant evidence of wrongdoing? Miyares “believes in being proactive, rather than reactive,” LaCivita wrote.
That tack strains credulity. You don’t investigate a nonexistent problem – unless you’re politicizing it.
This is pandering to a populace that’s disinclined to listen to facts. This sop to election deniers harms democracy and undermines election workers. The unit should be disbanded.
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