RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The City of Richmond Electoral Board voted to remove Kirk Showalter from her position of Richmond General Registrar. Board members say Showalter’s termination is effective immediately.
Chair James Nachman and Vice-Chair Joyce Smith voted in favor of her termination. Secretary Starlet Stevens voted against it.
Showalter served as the Richmond General Registrar for 25 years. During the last year, the Richmond Registrar’s Office experienced a COVID-19 outbreak as well as election reporting issues.
Election night reporting on Nov. 3 did not initially match figures from the state department of elections, and there were apparent discrepancies from her office reporting results for a city council race.
Showalter also faced transparency complaints from Virginia democrats about allegedly not providing contact information of voters who had uncured ballots, leading up the the general election.
Mayor Levar Stoney ultimately called for her resignation.
The coronavirus outbreak started shortly after Election Day, sending 90% of registrar employees into quarantine. Showalter also contracted the virus during the outbreak.
The decision to remove Showalter was made shortly after the board returned from a closed meeting on Monday and not without tension in the room.
The meeting was originally scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. but there were delays with it starting as well as technical difficulties after the meeting went live. There were issues unmuting people who had requested to speak during the meeting, once those were resolved the public comment period commenced. Following the comment period they switched to an hours long closed meeting to discuss discipling Showalter. The board finished up other meeting matters following the vote.
Following the vote, Smith requested that Showalter’s items be removed from her office and that her keys and badge be turned in tonight. This prompted pushback from a woman who identified herself as Showalter’s attorney, Nachman called the attorney’s statement’s out of order and he asked her to stop talking until recognized.
The attorney told the board tonight she plans to file injunctive relief in the morning. She says, “I’ve just been on the phone with the press and we’re having a press conference regarding about what happened today.”
Showalter rebuked the board’s request for her items, stating that Virginia code calls for her to remain in office until a replacement is found. Nachman says the code section, 24.2-110 does not apply to her situation because she has been removed.
During the comments period, State Sen. Joe Morrissey (D- Petersburg) spoke in favor of removing Showalter. He said he received numerous affidavits from her employees recounting a history of racist comments. Morrissey says African American employees reported being called monkeys, chickadees and children and said similar comments were not made towards white staff members.
Other election officials from around the state called into the meeting to encourage board officials to not remove Showalter. One saying she provided wisdom, guidance and a “deep knowledge of the election code.” They called for a non-partisan approach to designating election officials and said calls from local democrats for her to step down were “beyond troubling.”
Another election official said they had a great appreciation for Showalter’s professionalism.
Some people closer to home however echoed calls for her removal. Amy Wentz, former Richmond City Council candidate from the 8th district says that while she is glad Showalter seemed to have provided guidance to other communities she didn’t believe she served Richmond in an equitable and courteous way. She said throughout the election process there was not enough candidate outreach and issues Wentz brought to Showalter were met with disrespect and an unwillingness to take accountability.
A former poll worker spoke about her frustrations with Showalter for sending an email to election workers asking for their support.
Showalter sent a letter to hundreds of people last week, vouching for her record and saying how people could submit public comment during tonight’s meeting.
Showalter said “”There have been some ugly rumors about the operations in my office and suggestions of things mishandled during this past election. I can only say that the allegations are either fabrications or distortions.”
The poll worker says there were no efforts made to conceal the email addresses from others and she found the unsolicited request and open use of her address unprofessional.
One precinct worker from Richmond City says despite all of the issues impacting the election this year, Showalter was able to pull it off. They did not want to see her removal and offered kudos for her efforts this election season.
The Electoral Board members did not openly discuss their evaluations of these opinions during the open meeting.
8News has reached out to Showalter for comment but have not heard back.