Dying To Vote
By: WESLEY P. HESTER | Richmond Times-Dispatch
Published: July 25, 2012
Updated: July 25, 2012 - 1:01 PM
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's campaign is
asking Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to launch an investigation into
voter-registration forms that are being sent to Virginia residents and
addressed to deceased relatives,
children, family pets and others ineligible to vote.
The errant mailings from the Washington-based nonprofit
group Voter Participation Center have befuddled many Virginia residents,
leading to hundreds of complaints.
The organization has been mass-mailing the forms —
pre-populated with key information such as names and addresses — to primarily
Democratic-leaning voting blocs such as young adults, unmarried women,
African-Americans and Latinos.
In a letter to Cuccinelli's office and the State Board of
Elections, Kathryn Bieber, an attorney for the Romney campaign, calls for an
investigation into the matter by law-enforcement officials, claiming that the
mailings appear to violate "at least one and maybe several Virginia laws
aimed at ensuring a fair election."
Bieber refers to the mailings as "tactics that amount
to, or at the very least induce, voter
registration fraud," and says the issue "presents a very
significant risk to the proper administration of the upcoming general
Citing a Sunday Richmond Times-Dispatch story that brought
the mailings to light, the letter also asks the State Board of Elections to
require registrars to reject all pre-populated voter registration applications
from the group and review the eligibility of all Virginians who have registered
in the past two months.
"This is the only way for voters and other interested
parties to regain confidence in the voter registration and electoral process
that has been abused by the Voter Participation Center," the letter says.
Page Gardner, president and CEO of the Voter Participation
Center, said the organization mailed nearly 200,000 third-party registration
forms to Virginia addresses in June, which resulted in 15,026 new voters being
registered as of July 18.
On Monday, the Voter Participation Center responded to the
Sunday Times-Dispatch story, stating in a letter on its website that
"imperfections in the VPC vendors' lists — while regrettable and
unfortunate — should not be the reason or the excuse to call an entire process
that is working into question."
Justin Riemer, the State Board of Elections' deputy
secretary, said forms have been sent by
the group to deceased infants, out-of-state family members, and non-U.S.
citizens, among others.
In a letter this month, the State Board of Elections asked
the group to cease pre-populating their forms and raised questions about how
the group was obtaining lists of registered voters, citing the errant forms.
Riemer noted that pre-populating
the forms violates rules set forth in the state code and the Virginia
Constitution requiring that voters fill out their own forms.
The State Board of Elections had not received the letter
from the Romney campaign Tuesday afternoon and declined to comment on the specifics.
No comment was immediately available from Cuccinelli's
Asked for comment on the Romney campaign's letter, the Voter
Participation Center issued a statement noting that their forms are official
applications, not registration cards.
were approved before we sent them out by the State Board of Elections and
are the same applications that anyone can access at a local government office
or on the internet," the statement read.
"Our process is legal and working."
UPDATE: Brian Gottstein, a spokesman for Attorney General
Ken Cuccinelli, says the State Board of Elections would have to initiate a
request for an investigation.
"Our job right now is to advise our client, the SBE, as
they work to ensure the law is complied with and that the voter registration
process is not compromised," he said.
"With regard to an investigation, any type of
investigation on the part of our office would have to be initiated by a request
from SBE. The SBE has not made such a
Justin Riemer deputy secretary of the State Board of
Elections, said the state board has not officially received the letter from the
Romney campaign, but has obtained a copy. The three-member state board will
determine whether to seek an investigation.
"We're looking at it and working with the attorney
general's office to address the concerns they've raised," he said,
referring to the Romney camp.
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