CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- Sen. Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield) is consulting legal advice and hinting a possible write-in campaign in the fall, after her primary loss to Glen Sturtevant in a Chesterfield achored State Senate district. A former registrar in Chesterfield said Chase's challenge is with the political process, not the integrity of the election.
Chase takes issue with process of certification of the early voting machines in Chesterfield. Before ever election and as required by state law, local registrars must test each voting machine and certify it is working properly.
Chase said she has emails showing the Chesterfield GOP chose a member of the Sturtevant team to view the certification of the early, in-person machines.
“We're seeking legal counsel at this particular point. That's where we are in the process, and raising money to to defend the case," Chase said in an interview. “I’m not opposed to early voting, in-person. What I’m opposed to is what happened in this situation, where the early voting machine was not properly certified.”
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Chesterfield Registrar Missy Vera disputes that claim. In a statement, Vera said the local party chair was notified of the certification of early voting machines, in line with state law.
"The political party may have one representative present while the equipment is tested. Representatives are invited to only observe the process and see the machines are in proper condition for the election. Representatives do not physically touch the machine. Most times, the representative stays on-site observing the testing for a short period of time. For this election, the representative observed for no longer than an hour and a half," the statement said.
"The Registrar’s Office acted in compliance with the Code of Virginia and are confident in the process the machines were properly certified," it continued.
Registrars are not required to contact political candidates for certification of the machines unless there is an independent in the race, experts said. Tuesday's primary election was a party nomination contest.
"We’re talking about a disagreement between politicians here. It’s got nothing to do with the integrity of the election," said Larry Haake, the former Registrar in Chesterfield, who retired in 2017.
Haake said many voters do not realize every voting machine is tested and certified before every single election. No matter who observes the certification process, it remains the same, he said.
"If an observer came, they would just stand there and watch the test go forward. So with an observer, without an observer, regardless of who the observer is, this is a standard procedure. The procedure would be followed, and the machine would be tested, certified, sealed, and ready to go," Haake said.
"Years ago, I was asked to serve on a committee in Washington for the Election Assistance Commission, to determine best practices for pre-election testing of voting machines. So Chesterfield was one of the bases for the best practices nationwide to test an optical scan voting machine. So I have confidence in the process and the procedures and the people doing it," Haake said.
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Sturtevant declined to comment.
Even if you remove every early, in-person vote from Chesterfield — which is has not happened and is currently not under consideration — the final outcome would remain that same.
In a purely hypothetical scenario where all in-person early votes were tossed out as invalid, Sturtevant would still be ahead of Chase.— Graham Moomaw (@gmoomaw) June 22, 2023
In Chesterfield alone, he'd have 6,711 votes to her 6,694.https://t.co/1uEknfrkpo pic.twitter.com/GHXzWvZRPk
Chase said she won the election day voting and argued early voting periods should be shrunk, which she said would limit the chances of impropriety. She would not reveal what law firm she's approached about her next steps but said her involvement in the race is far from over.
"If I have to run a write in campaign on November, I'll do it. We're not going to let this go. These people will be held accountable," Chase said. "Clear conflict of interest, it reeks of collusion.”
Virginia's general election is set for Tuesday, Nov. 7th. All 140 seats in the General Assembly will be on the ballot, and thus the balance of power in Virginia government.
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