Investigating voter fraud and securing your vote

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RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The 2020 presidential election is like no other. The pandemic has led to some changes in voting procedures, laws and a record number of people are voting early in-person or by absentee ballot. All of that is prompting concern about fraud and protecting one’s vote.

Mail recently stolen from mailboxes in Metro-Richmond had some voters on edge.

However, postal inspectors said there was no indication election mail was in any of the boxes.

“Voting by mail is safe and secure,” says Ryan Snow with the Voting Rights Project at the Lawyers’ Committee For Civil Rights Under Law.

Voter fraud carries high penalties and felonies. Snow says he knows from his work voter fraud is infrequent. “We know from experience and we know from evidence voter fraud in any form is extremely rare,” said Snow.

Election officials tell 8News voter rolls are kept up-to-date. They have staff that that maintains a master death file list and they get lists for when someone moves. They also get lists for adjudications and felons.

Claims of voter fraud in Virginia are investigated by the local Commonwealth’s Attorney. The Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney Colette McEachin tells 8News she’s received only one allegation of voter fraud since she took office in January.

She told us, “The office treats such allegations very seriously and assigns an experienced attorney to each complaint to determine whether there was criminal intent or mere mistake or inadvertence.

The Henrico Commonwealth’s Attorney, Shannon Taylor said her office hasn’t had any reports of voter fraud to date.

This year drop boxes are in play and some worry ballots could be stolen or tampered with.

Susan Beals, Chairwoman of the Chesterfield County Electoral Board says that’s a very controlled process. She said, “That is a bag that is manned by a staff person at all times, it’s also within eyeshot of about 6 other employees at all times.”

Virginia now has a tracking code on all absentee ballot envelopes. Voters can even track your ballot to and from the registrar on the Department of Elections website.

Claire Gastanaga, Executive Director of the ACLU of Virginia says if a voter runs into an issue they have options. Gastanaga said, “They always have the option of asking for a provisional ballot.”

Voters can also call the Election Protection Hotline at 866-OUR-VOTE. Signs for the hotline are posted outside some registrar offices. Snow explained what voters can call for. He said, “If you have an issues, whether you are still waiting for your ballot after a number of weeks or if you thought you registered and you showed up you weren’t on the rolls.”

A call to Election Protection keeps a record of your complaint. It’s important to note, absentee ballots can be rejected for a host of reasons including forgetting to sign your ballot. You’re supposed to be notified and given a chance to correct it.

The ACLU of Virginia plans to keep an eye on that. Gastanaga cautions with the volume of absentee ballots this year and a new law that says your absentee ballot can be counted up until noon Friday as long as it is postmarked by election day, the days of knowing the outcome on election night maybe over.

“I think one of the things that we are going to learn this year is that we are going to have to have some patience with results,” said Gastanaga.

Voters who run into a problem can also file a complaint with the Virginia Department of Elections. You can find more information about that process here: https://www.elections.virginia.gov/voter-complaints/

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