RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) has ordered the state inspector general to investigate how Virginians with probation violations were improperly removed from voter rolls.
Virginia Department of Elections spokeswoman Andrea Gaines said the issue, first reported by Virginia Public Media, stemmed from people with probation violations being incorrectly included in a list of people with felony convictions maintained by state police.
With ballots already being cast in Virginia’s high-stakes elections, Democrats and advocacy groups called out the Youngkin for the removals, saying his administration was “illegally purging” eligible voters from state rolls.
On Tuesday, Youngkin’s secretary of administration sent a letter to the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia sharing that the governor ordered the state inspector general to look into the issue.
“Governor Youngkin believes that every eligible Virginian should exercise his or her right to vote,” Secretary Lyn McDermid wrote to Mary Bauer, the ACLU of Virginia’s executive director.
“He was deeply concerned to learn that certain felons whose rights had previously been restored, but who had subsequently violated their probation, were improperly removed from the registered voter list because this subsequent violation was miscoded as a felony,” McDermid added.
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 and must get the governor to restore their voting rights. Virginia is the only state in the country with such a system, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.
Virginia’s elections department asked state police to analyze their data to identify those “who may have been canceled in error,” Gaines wrote in an email to 8News. She added that the department would be sending local election officials the list of voters who should be reinstated.
McDermid added that Youngkin also asked the inspector general’s office to investigate “preliminary findings that during the past several decades” thousands of Virginians may have been able to stay on registered voter lists despite a new felony conviction after having their rights restored.
Bauer released a statement blasting McDermid’s letter, accusing Youngkin’s administration of trying “to pass the buck to local registrars to take responsibility for the mess the administration created.”
“The simple fact is that potentially thousands of Virginians still don’t have voting rights who should,” Bauer added. “The administration’s claim that its error has been corrected is belied by the ongoing reports we are still receiving now from people who have yet to have their voting rights reinstated – as well as reports from others who are afraid they’ll be punished if they ask for them back.”
Gaines, the elections department spokeswoman, did not immediately respond to requests for comment and information on how many eligible voters have been impacted.
Stay with 8News for updates.