The Bulletin

Virginia elections commissioner, who Youngkin is replacing, announces departure

By: - February 4, 2022 5:24 pm

An election official wipes down a table after every voter in Buckingham County, Nov. 3, 2020. (Parker Michels-Boyce / For the Virginia Mercury)

Virginia elections Commissioner Chris Piper is leaving his post March 11 after Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration formally told him he won’t be reappointed to the job, according to an internal email Piper sent his agency Friday.

Piper, an appointee of former Gov. Ralph Northam, said in the email he had agreed to stay on a few more weeks to “ensure a smooth transition.”

“I am disappointed because I would like nothing more than to spend the next four years in this chair working hand in hand with each of you as we labor to restore the nation’s faith in our election process,” Piper said in an email to employees of the state Department of Elections. “However, I am comforted by the fact that I will be leaving this place in your hands.”

Chris Piper, Virginia’s elections commissioner, was appointed by Gov. Ralph Northam in 2018. (Virgina Department of Elections)

Youngkin has not yet named a replacement for Piper. But Piper’s email notes Rachel Lawless, currently a confidential policy adviser in the department, “has been reappointed to her role and will continue to serve.”

“My promise to each of you is that I will do everything in my power to make sure you are set up for nothing but success,” Piper said. “My loyalty has always been to you, the State Board, the general registrars, Electoral Board members, thousands of election officers, voters, and future voters of the commonwealth.”

Youngkin had already said he intended to replace Piper, but Piper’s email indicated he wasn’t “officially notified” until Friday. Piper had held the state’s top elections job since 2018. It’s routine for incoming governors to appoint a new elections commissioner, but Piper won bipartisan praise from lawmakers and the elections community as an effective administrator who avoided overt partisanship.

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Graham Moomaw
Graham Moomaw

A veteran Virginia politics reporter, Graham grew up in Hillsville and Lynchburg, graduating from James Madison University and earning a master's degree in journalism from the University of Maryland. Before joining the Mercury in 2019, he spent six years at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, most of that time covering the governor's office, the General Assembly and state politics. He also covered city hall and politics at The Daily Progress in Charlottesville.