RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A last-minute push to upend how Virginia counts its votes was dismissed Monday after the man behind the legal effort didn’t show up to court.
James Renwick Manship filed an injunction to temporarily block the use of electronic voting machines used to count ballots in Virginia for years and have the Department of Elections “implement a state-wide Hand Count of Paper Ballots.”
In his injunction, Manship called machines used to tabulate ballots in Virginia “exploitable” and “flawed” but did not provide specific evidence to back his claims.
The Virginia Attorney General’s Office, led by Republican Jason Miyares, represented the state’s Department of Elections in the case. Miyares’ office argued in a motion to have the case thrown out that Manship’s allegations “are long on conspiracy and short on fact.”
“His [Manship’s] conspiratorial allegations — most of which concern purported voting irregularities in other jurisdictions or foreign countries — cannot show that he is likely to prevail on the merits,” Assistant Attorney General Travis Andrews wrote in the motion.
Andrews added that granting Manship’s request would “predictably create confusion and chaos” and slow down the ballot counting process, “potentially making it impossible for local electoral boards to meet the deadline to certify election results.”
“Such an injunction would require changing how every single precinct across the Commonwealth counts its ballots, including the several hundred thousand that have already been cast through early or absentee voting,” Andrews wrote.
An emergency hearing was set for Monday — the day before polls close — but Manship did not show up at Richmond Circuit Court. Just a few minutes into the hearing, the judge granted the attorney general’s office’s request for a dismissal.
The attorney listed as Manship’s counsel, Steve Armstrong, said he would have to read the judge’s order before commenting on the case.
Armstrong did not confirm whether Manship is the same James Renwick Manship who has attended events, including Tea Party parades and rallies, dressed as George Washington.
“We are glad that the Judge granted our demurrer and motion to dismiss the case,” Miyares spokesperson Victoria LaCivita wrote in an email. “Tomorrow’s election will proceed as planned.”
Calls to scrap the use of vote-counting machines and move to hand-counts have been made by some Republicans in the wake of false claims that an algorithm was used to manipulate systems during the 2020 presidential election.
Election administrators and candidates say hand-counting ballots would take far longer than machines, and research has found that scanners are more accurate.
“It would take excessively long to count just a handful of ballots,” Teresa Smithson, Hanover County’s general registrar, told 8News on Monday. “I’m sure the people who say it would be quicker have never sat down and hand-counted ballots.”
More than 930,000 voters have already cast ballots in Virginia’s midterms, including in the state’s 11 Congressional Districts, since mid-September, according to the Virginia Public Access Project. Early voting has ended, but Election Day is Nov. 8.