Lawsuit claims Richmond registrar has failed to provide full record of rejected absentee ballots

Richmond

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia’s Democratic Party has 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, filed Monday by state Democratic Party Chairwoman Susan Swecker, states that Swecker requested the public records from Kirk Showalter, the city’s registrar, on Oct. 9 in order for the party to “notify and assist eligible, registered Virginia voters in Richmond, including the DPVA’s members and constituents, with curing any material errors and omissions in their ballots before the November 6, 2020 cure deadline to ensure that these voters’ ballots are counted.”

Seventeen days after the request, the lawsuit claims that Showalter initially denied having any responsive records and then only shared “limited information, which she characterized as inaccurate.” The suit adds that Showalter has not yet shared the requested documents and has not provided “any justifiable reason” for not doing so.

A spokesperson for the Democratic Party of Virginia told 8News that other registrars in the state have provided such information. Showalter told 8News she cannot comment on pending litigation.

“The Democratic Party of Virginia is dedicated to making sure that every vote counts in this critical election. Part of that effort is a rigorous voter protection program to resolve issues with absentee ballots, and registrars across the Commonwealth have been very helpful in sharing information with us to aid in that process,” Swecker said in a statement Tuesday. “The Richmond Registrar is a lone exception, and has been inexplicably stonewalling our efforts to resolve issues with voters’ absentee ballots. This kind of obstructionism is wrong, and requires us to take immediate legal action to resolve this issue and ensure everyone’s vote will count. Every vote matters, and doing everything we can to ensure they are counted is the right thing to do.”

James Nachman, chairman of the Richmond City Electoral Board, told 8News’ Talya Cunningham that Showalter informed him that it was “communication error” within the registrar’s office as she did not know a log of rejected ballots were being kept. He added that the Democratic Party of Virginia is entitled to the information Swecker requested and will receive it during a planned meeting on Tuesday.

“If they tell me what they need, I will get them whatever they want,” Nachman said of the party’s request. “I am confident we are doing our job. I know that because I go down there and see it with my own eyes.”

Nachman noted that there are currently 85 absentee ballots awaiting to be cured.

Tuesday, Nachman directed the city’s elections registrar to share a log of absentee ballots with material omissions to anyone who wants a copy at that night’s board meeting. Registrar Kirk Showalter has complied with this order.

Despite this, an official from the Virginia Democratic Party said they weren’t dropping the lawsuit because they wanted two other things from the registrar:

  1. There’s a group of voters whose registration address and the address listed on return envelopes don’t match. They want these people listed on the log of deficient ballots in order to contact them to fix this discrepancy.
  2.  They want the registrar’s office to send daily updates as more of these ballots come in, and update the log of ballots with deficiencies.

Tonight, Richmond Elections Board Chairman James Nachman said a list of absentee discrepancies was being maintained, then it stopped. Then, he says he directed the process to start again. Nachman did not offer specifics why.

This story is developing. Check back for updates.

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