Democratic Party officials in Virginia ask Richmond’s elections chief to be removed or resign

Richmond

Mayor Stoney said Thursday he supports the calls for Richmond's registrar to step down

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Democratic Party officials in Virginia sent a letter Thursday to Richmond’s Electoral Board calling for the resignation of the city’s general registrar, J. Kirk Showalter, or for the board to dismiss Showalter over her handling of the 2020 election.

The letter, which was signed by Susan Swecker, the chair of the Democratic Party of Virginia, and Jamie Nolan, the chair of the Richmond City Democratic Committee, begins by acknowledging the unprecedented challenges this year’s election season presented, applauding the effort from other election officials and criticizing how Showalter administered the election.

“Fortunately, the vast majority of registrars and election administration officials rose to the challenge and made sure all Virginians could vote safely and conveniently this year. Throughout the election cycle they were transparent about changes being made in policies and procedures and kept the public engaged and informed,” the letter reads. “However, this was not the case in the City of Richmond.”

Party officials cited five issues they had with Showalter’s job performance during the election cycle in the letter, including her response to a COVID-19 outbreak at the registrar’s office that forced 90 percent of its staff to quarantine and a lawsuit Democrats filed against Showalter seeking complete records of the city’s uncured ballots.

In late October, Virginia’s Democratic Party sued Richmond’s general registrar for allegedly failing to fully respond to a Freedom of Information Act request seeking the names and total number of absentee voters in the city who have had their ballots rejected due to an error or omission. The lawsuit was eventually dropped before going to court after the party said city officials agreed to share a complete list of voters whose ballots needed to be cured and that Showalter would send them updated lists before and after Election Day.

The party also mentions confusion surrounding the final results of two City Council races, the 2nd and 8th District. Richmond City Council candidate Tavarris Spinks filed a Freedom of Information Act request last week seeking details from the city’s general registrar on what led to discrepancies between the unofficial vote count and the final results in the 2nd District race.

The letter also alleges Showalter mishandled the outbreak in the registrar’s office, which did force Virginia to delay the certification of the 2020 election results.

Showalter, who is appointed by the electoral board, did not respond to a request seeking comment prior to publishing. Her office manages the coordination of the city’s elections, voter registration and filings by candidates. James M. Nachman, the chair of Richmond’s Electoral Board, told 8News’ Laura Perrot Thursday that he has yet to fully review the letter sent by Democratic Party officials.

“The time has come for Ms. Showalter to either resign or be removed for cause,” the letter from the party concludes. “These repeated failures of the Registrar cannot be ignored and the City of Richmond, indeed, deserves better.”

During a virtual coronavirus briefing Thursday afternoon, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney cited the outbreak at the registrar’s office, which the mayor said likely led to his campaign manager contracting the virus, when he backed the calls for Showalter to step down.

“But also there’s a number of other complaints that I’m very well aware of, that have come into our office too. So, I concur with Chairwoman Swecker and Chairwoman Nolan as well. I believe that the electoral board needs to step up and either remove the registrar or ask for her resignation as well,” Stoney said. “And I stand by that and I think in the 21st Century now, with the way things are changing because the pandemic, we need to ensure that our process is transparent and that’s why I think the move is necessary.”

Showalter sent 8News a response to the letter from Democratic Party officials. She says, “This is the first that I am learning of this.  However, I am confident that whatever the allegations are will be examined, it will be shown that the election was managed well under difficult circumstances, and that we did all in our power to comply with all the last minute changes and additional requirements.”

Showalter says she finds the timing of the action to be interesting. She says her ability to respond is currently hindered due to the closure of the registrar’s office and the fact that she is also recovering from COVID-19.

This story is developing. Check back for updates.

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