Richmond Electoral Board Chair addresses lawsuit filed by Virginia Democrats

Virginia Democrats sue Richmond Registrar for list of voters with ballot errors
Posted at 1:24 PM, Oct 27, 2020

RICHMOND, Va. -- The Democratic Party of Virginia has filed a lawsuit against the Richmond Registrar for allegedly failing to fully respond to a public records request regarding absentee voters.

Democratic Party Chairwoman Susan Swecker filed the suit Monday against Kirk Showalter, General Registrar for the City of Richmond.

"The Democratic Party of Virginia is dedicated to making sure that every vote counts in this critical election. Part of that effort is a rigorous voter protection program to resolve issues with absentee ballots, and registrars across the Commonwealth have been very helpful in sharing information with us to aid in that process," said Swecker in a statement to CBS 6. "The Richmond Registrar is a lone exception, and has been inexplicably stonewalling our efforts to resolve issues with voters' absentee ballots."

Swecker says on October 9 she requested records from Showalter related to absentee voters whose returned materials are identified as containing material errors and omissions.

The chairwoman says they use the lists to contact voters to remind them they need to fix their ballots.

In the lawsuit, Swecker says 17 days after she first made the request, Showalter first denied that she had any responsive records, and then produced only limited information, which she characterized as inaccurate.

"She has not yet provided a complete production of the requested documents. And she has done so without any justifiable reason," the lawsuit states.

Party officials allege that Showalter’s failure to turn over the list is a violation of the Virginia Freedom of Information Act.

"This kind of obstructionism is wrong, and requires us to take immediate legal action to resolve this issue and ensure everyone's vote will count," Swecker's statement continued. "Every vote matters, and doing everything we can to ensure they are counted is the right thing to do."

During the October meeting of the Richmond Electoral Board Tuesday night, chairman Jim Nachman addressed the lawsuit, saying that no one was trying to hide information or stonewall anyone.

Nachman said he was made aware the list of ballots that needed to be cured was not being maintained and election officials corrected the issue.

Nachman distributed an updated list of voters who needed to fix issues with their absentee ballots to anyone who wanted one, including representatives of the Democratic Party of Virginia.

To date, Nachman said Showalter reports 97 ballots that need curing and said he’s been assured that “most” of the voters have already been contacted.

Nachman added that they have received complaints from voters about political parties contacting voters about absentee ballot issues, although he did not provide specifics. Board members said Richmond elections officials are working through unprecedented levels of early voting and the stress that come with that workload.

No hearing date has been set for the lawsuit, and it is unclear whether or not this development will impact it going forward.

CBS 6 reached out to Showalter for comment about the lawsuit.

"We cannot comment on pending lawsuits," she replied via email. "The City Attorney’s office would not represent us in this matter. The state Division of Risk Management would assign counsel."