RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares has established an “Election Integrity Unit” within his office to work with state and local election officials and oversee investigations into potential crimes.
The unit will give legal advice to the Virginia Department of Elections, prosecute violations of state election laws and work with election officials “to ensure uniformity and legality in application of election laws,” according to the attorney general’s office.
The AG’s office said in a release Friday that the election unit, which is made up of more than 20 attorneys, investigators and paralegals, will also work with law enforcement with the aim of securing “legality and purity in elections.”
A Republican-led push on the topic of “Election Integrity” has grown since former President Donald Trump’s false claims of widespread voter fraud during the 2020 presidential election.
Miyares, a Republican who defeated incumbent Mark Herring last year, said the new unit would play a key role in restoring confidence in Virginia elections. The attorney general was not available for an interview Friday, a spokesperson for his office said.
“I pledged during the 2021 campaign to work to increase transparency and strengthen confidence in our state elections. It should be easy to vote, and hard to cheat,” Miyares said in a statement. “The Election Integrity Unit will work to help to restore confidence in our democratic process in the Commonwealth.”
Several GOP candidates and lawmakers, including those in Virginia, have backed implementing tighter voting laws, claiming Americans lack confidence in the electoral process. Miyares spokesperson Victoria LaCivita did not provide data on voter fraud in Virginia when asked by 8News, but said “Republicans and Democrats nationwide have raised concerns about election integrity.”
Polls have shown a partisan divide over trust in elections, with Republicans lacking trust in the process at a much higher rate than Democrats and independents, but that most Americans believe that elections in the U.S. are fair.
Republican bills to change Virginia’s voting rules, including bringing back the photo ID requirement, were killed by Virginia Senate Democrats earlier this year.
An effort from state Sen. Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield), who has repeated unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud, called to set aside $70 million in the state budget for a “full forensic audit” of the 2020 presidential election.
Virginia conducts risk-limiting audits after elections, a method Democrats and the state’s former elections commissioner say is cost-effective and reliable. The audit for the 2020 presidential election revealed that Virginia’s election officials were over 99% confident in President Joe Biden’s victory.
In February, Sen. Chase presented her claims “of gross election irregularities” in the 2020 election to the attorney general’s office and said members of Miyares’ office “were very interested in the information” and wanted to set a second meeting. Chase has yet to make her claims public as she said she would, telling 8News more details would be shared after the midterms.
LaCivita said the financial law and government support section within the AG’s office’s Government Operations and Transactions Division would lead on providing advice to the State Board of Elections and Department of Elections.
“With regard to election crimes and litigation, that is cross-divisional effort spearheaded by Attorney General Miyares to bring the diverse resources and experiences of the Office’s attorneys and staff to work together on these issues,” she wrote in an email.