Richmond has a new General Registrar

Posted at 3:25 PM, May 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-10 15:25:26-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Richmond's new General Registrar and Director of Elections Keith Balmer was sworn into office during a Monday morning ceremony.

"I want everybody to see how we operate in this office," Balmer said while emphasizing he planned to run a transparent office. "I think that can sort of allay any fears that people may have."

Balmer began his election career in the warehouse as a machine technician.

"I walked in trying to do one thing, which was to be an election officer and walked out with a job and it kind of led to all of this 11 years later," he said.

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While Balmer, 43, is the youngest person to hold this job in Richmond, he said he has the experience to do it well.

"I'm a student of federal election law, of state election law, so [voters and candidates] can absolutely be 100% sure that the elections that I conduct here in the city will be run according to all laws and regulations," Balmer said. "They can be assured that we're going to be on top of things here in this office when it comes to administering elections in accordance to the law."

Back in February, the Richmond Electoral Board voted 2-1 to dismiss longtime General Registrar Kirk Showalter "for cause" following allegations of mishandling the November election. Showalter had served as the city’s chief elections officer since 1995.

Her removal came after the Democratic Party of Virginia, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, and others called for her to step down from her job citing events that occurred before, during, and after the 2020 election.

Those events included:

  • Failure to comply with the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA requests) from the Democratic Party of Virginia
  • Providing false information to the Democratic Party of Virginia in response to Freedom of Information Act requests
  • Admission the office was not contacting voters within three days of noticing "a material omission" on their absentee ballot envelope
  • Mishandling of a COVID-19 outbreak within the office
  • Changing vote counts in the 2nd and 8th district races with little explanation

Balmer, who is also the city's first African-American registrar, was appointed by a 2-1 vote in April. The VCU graduate previously worked in registrar's offices in Richmond and Alexandra.

The General Registrar's Office works to help people register to vote, maintain voter records, and coordinates elections.

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