RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Susan Beals, a former member of the Chesterfield Electoral Board who worked as an aide for Republican state Sen. Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield), has been named Virginia’s next elections commissioner by Gov. Glenn Youngkin.
Gov. Youngkin’s office shared that Beals would be replacing Christopher Piper –who left the post earlier this month– in a March 18 press release announcing other administrative appointments. The announcement came a month after Youngkin’s office named Beals director of the Office of Constituent Services.
Beals was Sen. Chase’s legislative aide in 2015 through the 2016 session, according to the state senator. She worked for Republican Ed Gillespie in 2017 during his unsuccessful gubernatorial bid against Ralph Northam, according to the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project.
Virginia’s commissioner of elections, who must be a registered voter in the commonwealth, is the head of the Department of Elections and serves as its top administrative officer. Beals was not made available for an interview Monday but the governor’s office shared a statement from the new commissioner.
“I am committed to promoting and supporting secure, accurate, open and fair elections in the Commonwealth of Virginia,” Beals said in her statement. “I will strive to meet the goals of the department’s strategic plan which seek to increase voter confidence in the election process and strengthen the security of the Commonwealth’s elections.”
Youngkin revealed his intentions to appoint a new election commissioner in January during an interview with conservative radio host John Fredericks.
“The Department of Elections, we know there’s a number, Gov. Youngkin, of partisan, left-wing nonprofits that have deeply infiltrated the Department of Elections in Virginia,” Fredericks said on his show. “I’m not a fan of Commissioner Piper as you know. Do you have any plans to clean house in there?”
The governor told Fredericks the short answer was “yes” but then shared his view that the state’s Department of Elections should be “nonpolitical and independent” and expressed support for restoring Virginia’s photo ID law.
“These are the kinds of things that we’re pressing to get through our legislature. It’s going to be hard and so we’re going to have to make sure the leadership that’s in the Department of Elections is leadership that is looking out for the integrity of the election process and not trying to be political.”
Piper, who was appointed in 2018 by then-Gov. Northam, said he was disappointed not to serve another term but told 8News he was proud of the work done in his time as commissioner. He left the role on March 11.
Despite previously having Beals as part of her staff, Chase said she was “deeply troubled and devastated” when she heard about her appointment. In a statement, Chase cited Beals’ rejection of unproven “election irregularities” during the 2020 presidential election and her opposition for a full forensic audit.
“At a recent Chesterfield GOP meeting, Susan denied any election irregularities and did not support a resolution calling for a full forensic audit that was being presented by members of the committee. This is a travesty and I do not support her position,” Chase wrote in her statement. “Hopefully her mind can be changed once she takes time to meet with those of us who have documentation on noted irregularities that occurred here in Virginia and that we presented to the Attorney General’s office several weeks ago.”
Chase has continued to make false election fraud claims about the 2020 election and said days before Virginia’s 2021 gubernatorial election that she knew how Democrats were “cheating.” She presented her claims to the office of Attorney General Jason Miyares last month after ignoring calls from then-Attorney General Mark Herring to do so last October.
While the State Board of Elections chairman called Youngkin’s decision “a slap in the face” to election workers, it’s not uncommon for a new governor to appoint a new commissioner of elections once taking office. Northam and former Gov. Terry McAuliffe both appointed their own commissioners after being sworn in.
Under state law, Virginia governors can appoint commissioners to a four-year term that begins July 1 after a gubernatorial election. Similar to cabinet appointments, the General Assembly confirms commissioners of elections but changes to the process could soon be approved.
State lawmakers are working out the differences in bills that passed this legislative session that would expand the State Board of Elections with equal representation for Democrats and Republicans and give the board the authority to appoint the commissioner of elections of the Department of Elections.
Under the current rules, Virginia’s governor has the authority to replace the entire board, as Northam did, and the governor’s political party gets a majority of the seats. Depending on whether the proposed legislation is passed and adopted, the board could weigh in on Beals’ appointment or it could go before the state legislature.
“The Youngkin administration is confident in Susan Beal’s credentials and that she will be selected,” the governor’s spokesperson Macaulay Porter said in a statement.