RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – The Virginia Department of Elections says about 3,400 people were mistakenly removed from the state’s voter rolls, revealing a total far greater than its initial estimate less than two weeks from Election Day.
The nearly 3,400 eligible voters were taken off the rolls after their probation violations were misclassified as new felony violations on a database maintained by state police, the department said.
After two days of silence, Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s elections office shared the total and said most of the eligible voters affected have had their registrations reinstated.
“As of today, all but approximately 100 of these records have been processed by general registrars,” the department said Friday. The department did not respond to multiple requests for comment on Wednesday or Thursday on how many voters were removed.
Virginians automatically lose their civil rights – such as the right to vote, run for office and serve on a jury – when convicted of a felony. Once that has happened, only the governor can restore their voting rights. Virginia is the only state in the country with such a system, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.
The error, made public after reporting from Virginia Public Media, caused voters with past felony convictions who had their voting rights restored to be removed from state rolls after being included on a list with people with new felony convictions.
The department initially shared an estimate that less than 300 voters were impacted. But election administrators from four localities in the Richmond area told 8News on Thursday that they had nearly 400 — indicating that far more voters were impacted by the error.
Gov. Youngkin ordered a state inspector general investigation on the voter removals and Virginia Democrats in Congress called for a Department of Justice investigation. The removals drew sharp criticism from Democrats and advocacy groups.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia questioned the new figure shared by the elections department, adding that more should be done to notify voters who were improperly removed from state rolls.
“One mailed registration notice doesn’t cut it. What if voters don’t receive—or understand—it? How will they know there’ll be no reprisals for voting? Most of all how will the administration prove 3,400 is the total number of people impacted when two weeks ago it said it was 270?” the ACLU of Virginia posted on X after the announcement.
In an email provided to 8News, and first reported by VPM, the elections department’s FOIA office said 269 people whose rights were restored were part of an “initial pilot” to “confirm its database would automatically process the updates” with no details on how many still needed to be reinstated.
“Out of an abundance of caution, this initial pilot included a communication and accompanying list of 269 individuals to local registrars so that ELECT could confirm its database would automatically process the updates,” the email reads. “After the pilot, all subsequent updates of additional affected individuals were provided through ELECT’s VERIS database directly to local registrars.”
Initial reports regarding the number of affected voters did not include the information that the 269 people on the pilot list were a portion of the total list – a test to see if the process worked. Further reporting by news outlets revealed this information.
Virginia Democrats continued to blame Youngkin for the error, including one who labeled him an “election denier.” “This is what happens when you put an election denier Governor in charge of voting,” state Sen. Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax) posted on X.