RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Richmond City Council candidate Tavarris Spinks filed a Freedom of Information Act request Thursday seeking details from the city’s general registrar on what led to discrepancies between last week’s unofficial vote count and the final results in the 2nd District race.
The initial margin in the race for Richmond’s 2nd District seat, which was up for grabs after current Councilwoman Kim Gray announced a run for mayor, was razor thin between Katherine L. Jordan and Mr. Spinks up until Nov. 10 when the final election results were made public online.
Virginia’s Department of Elections site on Monday showed the unofficial results with Spinks ahead of Jordan by 26 votes, 7,056 to 7,030. When the results were updated online late Tuesday, Spinks had lost 1,095 votes for a total of 5,961 and Jordan gained more than 100 votes for a total of 7,195.
Spinks submitted a FOIA request to registrar J. Kirk Showalter on Thursday in an effort to get “a detailed and timely explanation of how these final figures were determined.” When asked about what could have prompted the drop in votes, Showalter shared the following statement with 8News:
“The canvass of election is a process which reviews the actual results from the precincts directly from the voting machine tapes. The election night results are those reported by the precincts and may or may not be accurate. I have not had an opportunity to review what, exactly changed from Election night as the final results came from the numbers produced by the canvass,” Showalter wrote in an email Wednesday. “However, there should be a report available on the state’s website showing the changes from Election night to last night. I DO know of two possible impacts: the Central Absentee results initially reported did not include one of the 12 voting machines; and, the Central Absentee final results also now include the post election day absentee ballots that were returned and tabulated.”
The potential reasons listed by Showalter would seem to add to vote totals across the city, not take votes away from a particular candidate. Spinks’ campaign filed the request, in part, due to Showalter’s response to the issue.
“After repeated attempts to clarify these results, Ms. Showalter, the steward of Richmond’s democratic process, has continued to offer inadequate, vague, and inconsistent responses,” Spinks said in a statement Thursday.
Data change logs from the state’s Department of Elections website show Spinks’ central absentee vote total at 5,143 on Election Night. The total was changed to 4,022 and the reason listed in the log was “reported wrong from precinct.”
Showalter is listed as the last user to change Spinks’ vote total, according to the data change logs.
“Voters must have the utmost faith in our democratic system so I urge Ms. Showalter and the electoral board to acknowledge the damage that has been done to the credibility of the Registrar’s office and promptly formulate a plan to effectively rebuild the trust of the Richmond electorate,” Spinks’ statement continued.
In a statement to 8News, Showalter said her office will respond to Spinks’ campaign but stressed that the city’s electoral board must prioritize the 975 provisional ballots that have yet to be tallied. She added that she is confident the board will “closely examine” any possible changes before the election results are certified.
Mr. Spinks has indeed asked for information, and that information is absolutely available to the public, and we will respond in due course. Election night results are unofficial and subject to change because errors can be made in the reporting. However, final results are not developed from those unofficial results. The final results are produced by the Electoral Board working directly from the voting machine tapes and statement of results filed by the precincts which have been through the vetting of the canvass process. If anything changed from Election night to the final results, I am confident that the Electoral Board will closely examine this change before producing the Abstracts which certify the election. The Board’s priority at the moment, however, is completing the process that will allow it to consider the Provisional ballots, without which the election cannot be certified. The Board will not sign the Abstracts of the Election until they are satisfied that the final results are truly final.”J. Kirk Showalter, Richmond’s general registrar
Jordan has also acknowledged a desire to get clarification on the vote totals, but initially declared victory in a brief statement to 8News on Wednesday, saying “while I too would like clarification on the final numbers, the outcome appears definitive and I am humbled by the result.” She has since come out and shared her support for Spinks’ call for additional details.
“I support @teevirus and any candidate asking for clarification and transparency in their race results,” Jordan said in a tweet Wednesday night after her statement to 8News. “If our results flip, I will fully support him as our City Council representative.”
Spinks repeated a similar message on Thursday, explaining that he would back Jordan if the current vote total holds.
“I want to make myself very clear; I will fully respect any outcome, including the current figures, as soon as voters can be assured that results have been accurately calculated,” Spinks said in his statement. “If my opponent maintains her victory, I will fully support her as our next Council Representative.”