Virginia attorney general’s office investigating claims against two Richmond Electoral Board members

Richmond

Voters wait inside the Richmond general registrar’s office to cast their ballots early for the 2020 presidential election. (Photo: Dean Mirshahi/8News)

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – The Virginia attorney general’s office is investigating accusations from Republicans that two members of the Richmond Electoral Board opened sealed election result envelopes without a party observer to oversee the process. 

The State Board of Elections unanimously agreed last month to ask Richmond’s commonwealth’s attorney to review the claims brought forward by the Richmond City Republican Committee against Chairman Jim Nachman and Vice Chair Joyce Smith, the two Democrats on the city’s electoral board.

“Neither the board nor the department [Department of Elections] have the investigative tools or authority to definitively determine the facts in this matter,” Robert Brink, the chairman of the Virginia Board of Elections, said on April 20 after voting to refer the allegations to the city’s top prosecutor. 

But the city’s prosecutor, Colette McEachin, told 8News in early May she requested for the attorney general’s office to conduct the investigation, citing “their greater resources” and that her office has no investigators.

The attorney general’s office will look into whether Nachman and Smith maintained protocol when opening sealed results after the election, which Nachman said they did after being informed by the city’s general registrar at the time, Kirk Showalter, that they could. According to accusations listed in the record, Showalter did not give the OK to Nachman.

The accusations against Nachman and Smith, which they denied during the April 20 meeting and in documents submitted for the record, go beyond just opening sealed envelopes without following procedure. 

Starlet Stevens, the lone Republican on the Richmond Electoral Board, wrote in a statement that Nachman had continued the vote count at his home days after the 2020 elections and had been aggressive and disrespectful at the electoral board meeting where Showalter had been fired. 

The chairman of the Richmond City Republican Committee, Hayden Fisher, called for the removal of Nachman and Smith from the city’s board during the State Board of Elections’ meeting last month. Nachman fought back against the claims against him and Smith, saying he continued counting ballots at his home with his wife, who had been sworn in by Showalter to fulfill the role, after the city’s registrar’s office was closed down due to a COVID-19 outbreak

Nachman also questioned why the allegations were only brought forward after Showalter had been removed and not directly after the November elections. 

“The accusers have absolutely no firsthand knowledge or observation for anything that happened. All of their allegations are based on double and triple hearsay and the letter from seven registrars backs up our story, which is the truth,” Nachman told the state board. “So, I don’t really see any need to refer this to the commonwealth’s attorney. This is just an unfounded accusation which was done in retaliation for us removing Kirk Showalter as registrar. The timing of it is suspect.” 

While Nachman said he felt all the allegations had been “debunked,” Smith noted that she had nothing to hide and wanted to clear her name. 

“So, I would like to have this cleared up seriously,” Smith also said during the meeting, “because it’s offensive and I know I’m not a liar. I don’t have anything to lie about.” 

A spokeswoman for Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring told 8News the office does not comment on pending investigations.  

Stay with 8News for updates.

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