Virginia mistakenly removed nearly 3,400 voters from state rolls, election officials said ahead of Tuesday’s statewide election.
That was previously said by the administration of Governor Glenn Youngkin, a Republican about 270 voters were mistakenly removed from the paper due to an error in the state’s computer system. The state reception on Friday that the problem is an order of magnitude larger than previously reported has sparked outrage from voting rights groups and the state Democratic Party.
“The lack of transparency here is troubling,” said Aaron Mukerjee, director of voter protection for the Virginia Democratic Party, adding that earlier assurances by state officials that the error was a minor issue made it “hard to believe” the new number was accurate.
Tuesday’s election in Virginia is projected as a throw, and will decide control of the state’s closely divided legislature. It will also offer both national parties a sense of their electoral strengths and weaknesses heading into 2024.
Election integrity has become a key issue in Virginia, and conservative activists are using next week’s election as a testing ground for a strategy to detect voter fraud in the 2024 election.
Affected voters were people with prior felony convictions who had their voting rights restored after serving their sentences, according to the state Elections Department, and a software bug misclassified probation violations as new felonies that would automatically strip residents of their voting rights under Virginia the law.
The department said all but about 100 people had their rights restored.
Virginia is the only state to permanently disenfranchise voters who have been convicted of a felony, and their rights can only be restored through individual petitions to the governor’s office, according to Brennan Center for Justice. Mr. Youngkin, who took office last year, repealed a policy enacted by previous governors that automatically restored voting rights to residents who had completed felony sentences.
Macaulay Porter, a spokeswoman for Mr. Youngkin, said that “the governor has consistently stated that all eligible voters should be able to vote,” adding that asked the state inspector to investigate the “causes and circumstances” of the purge of voter lists.
The potential impact on the election is likely to be small more than six million Virginians registered to vote. Voters who have served felony sentences are four times more likely to be registered as Democrats or unaffiliated, but are also more likely to vote Republican in that group, according to 2019 study by Ragnar Research Partners.
This was also revealed by the analysis of the Marshall project about 1 in 4 previously imprisoned voters who have their rights restored registered to vote in the 2020 elections in four key states.
But the timing of Virginia’s disclosure — about a week before Election Day — combined with earlier statements by state officials dismissing the issue, drew widespread attention.
“While the administration says the problem has been resolved, delays and obfuscation threaten to undermine confidence in next week’s runoff general election,” The Virginian-Pilot and Daily Press editorial board he wrote on Tuesday.