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Virginia NAACP questions Election Integrity Unit, says it's designed to suppress voters of color

Posted at 6:36 PM, Nov 01, 2022

RICHMOND, Va. -- The Virginia NAACP continues to seek records related to the creation of the Election Integrity Unit within the Virginia Attorney General’s Office, saying they believe it is designed to suppress voters of color. AG Jason Miyares’ office calls those allegations baseless.

Last month, the Virginia NAACP filed a Freedom of Information request seeking records related to the establishment of the Election Integrity Unit, its mission, and a record of the number of instances of voter fraud in Virginia since 2008. The AG’s office saddled them with a $20,000 bill before beginning the estimated 500 hours of work to fulfill that request, Virginia NAACP leaders said, adding they paid that deposit.

“Most Virginians do not know much about this unit, or why the Attorney General believes it is necessary to establish it,” Robert Barnette, President of the Virginia NAACP said. “We see no evidence that there is voter fraud in the Commonwealth with regards to elections. And again, why now, other than to appease election deniers and conspiracy theorists? That's it.”

Miyares announced the formation of the 20-member unit back in September to “investigate and prosecute violations of Virginia election law” and make sure it is applied uniformly across the Commonwealth.

“I pledged during the 2021 campaign to work to increase transparency and strengthen confidence in our state elections. It should be easy to vote, and hard to cheat. The Election Integrity Unit will work to help to restore confidence in our democratic process in the Commonwealth,” said Attorney General Miyares in a September press release from his office.

Barnette said to this point, the AG’s office has failed to show evidence that the unit is needed and fears its creation will instead keep some voters of color from turning out in elections based on Virginia’s history of suppressing voters of color.

“Election cheating certainly includes using the power of the state government to try to intimidate and keep people from voting,” Barnette said.

The AG”s Office said the FIOA charge is reasonable and falls within state law, which requires organizations and individuals to compensate government agencies for work related to fulfilling records requests.

In response to the Virginia NAACP press conference, a spokesperson for Miyares blasted the NAACP’s allegations:

“It is an absolute insult to the Attorney General to falsely claim that he, as the first Hispanic ever elected to statewide office in Virginia, is trying to intimidate and prevent Virginians of any color or background from exercising the rights that were denied to his own family members. The right to vote is one of the bedrock freedoms that brought the Miyares Family to the United States to begin with,” said Victoria LaCivita. “The Virginia NAACP is making groundless attacks that are offensive, ridiculous and without a single shred of proof.”

CBS 6 asked Barnette about what proof they could provide.

“What kind of evidence do guys see that this unit going to try to suppress voters of color, minority voters?” asked reporter Jake Burns.

“There is a probability that when you bring on prosecutors for voting, it intimidates people, intimidates especially people of color. When maybe they're not sure whether they can vote or not, and if they do go ahead and vote, they may be arrested and prosecuted. We should be open to making sure that our elections do not encourage intimidation by state officials,” Barnette said.

At an event in Petersburg, CBS 6 asked Governor Glenn Youngkin about this situation. Youngkin said work on Virginia’s election system doesn’t always have to address an active problem.

“I have great confidence in our election system,” Youngkin said. “A lot of it is to invest to make sure we have constant improvement in the system. This is what we have to do in order to make folks have great faith in it.”

Election Day is on November 8.

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