If you read my blog on a regular basis, you know that I do my very best to get the truth out to readers in a non-partisan way. Some issues are complicated and often the facts need to be cobbled together in order to make sense. This, my friends, is one of those times. While I know that misinformation is often purposely fed to the public by unscrupulous individuals to meet their own ends, never have I seen anything like what I am seeing right now in Stafford County.
You may be wondering why Stafford election results are getting so much attention. Tuesday's election was a total bloodbath for Republicans in Virginia. The State House of Delegates went from Republicans holding a resounding majority to what looks like the potential for a 50/50 split. Which party controls the House all depends on how a few very close races play out, including our Stafford HD 28 race between Republican Bob Thomas and Democrat Josh Cole. As of this writing, only 84 votes separate the two with Thomas in the lead. To their credit, both seem to be endorsing making sure valid votes are counted and are not playing into venomous rumor. This story is continually evolving but I will stay on it for as long as it takes to make sure you are getting the best information instead of spin and deception. There are a lot of moving parts here so I am going to take things piece by piece:
1111 absentee ballots not counted : Supervisor Laura Sellers (D) started this rumor on her twitter feed and it continues to be spread by certain individuals as fact. According to the Stafford Registrar's press release (and what I was directly told by him last week) this is a complete fabrication. These 1111 ballots refer to the absentee ballots sent out but never returned to the registrar's office. The state and national political parties have said nothing about this issue and if it were valid, they absolutely would. There is no merit to Ms. Sellers accusation, let's put this to bed for good.
55 late arriving absentee"military ballots" not being counted: A whole lot is being made of these ballots right now. Many on the Dem side of the aisle are screaming that voter suppression is occurring here. Some are also stating how appalled they are that these "military" votes are not being counted, like the Chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Virginia who said in a Daily Progress article, "It’s disgraceful that the registrar and two members of the Electoral Board in Stafford County refuse to count military votes." Delegate elect Lee Carter also jumped in saying, "For Stafford County to say ‘Happy birthday, Marines. By the way, your vote doesn’t count,’ it’s completely unconscionable to me.” Trent Armitage, the executive director of the House Democratic Caucus stated, again in the Daily Progress article, that the Registrar's claim that the votes shouldn't be counted is“absolutely ridiculous.”
The registrar did address these ballots in his press release stating the following: "With every election, my office typically continues to receive late absentee ballots for weeks - and sometimes even months- after an election has come and gone. We cannot count these ballots without an order of a court competent jurisdiction, and instead store them, (unopened) in a secure manner in the custody of the Stafford County Clerk of Court. This includes the roughly 55 absentee ballots that were not received from the USPS by my office until Wednesday, November 8, the day after the deadline by which they had to have been received in order to be counted. Contrary to some reports, these ballots were not 'military' ballots per se, but rather a collection of all types of absentee ballots that happened to be in the postal pipeline at that same time."
So on one side, we have the registrar stating: that these ballots arrived and were received in his office on Wednesday morning, well after the polls closed; that they were not in the PO Box when it was last checked late on election day; that they are NOT military ballots. We have others saying all of that is untrue, including the Daily Progress reporter Michael Martz who stated to his readers unequivocally that "the ballots arrived on time and came from active-duty service personnel." It seems all of these individuals, some high ranking in the state Democratic Party, are convinced that these ballots arrived on time, from military voters with out one shred of evidence. If there is any evidence at all to indicate what they are saying is true, I am not aware of it. If you are, please send it my way and I will post it. I encourage you all to investigate and decide for yourselves who you think is telling the truth based on the facts but my spidey senses tell me these sounds bites are purposeful misdirection to rile voters into outrage.
And it's working. Local Democrats are holding a meeting on Monday morning at the courthouse before the Electoral Board meets at noon to decide on the provisional ballots. Which brings us to...
Provisional voters were told the incorrect time to appear at the registrar's office:
UPDATE: I have an image of the full forms used regarding provisional ballots. As you can see below, there are two different versions of the provisional form, the light one on the left is used for a variety of reasons and the "Shrek" green form on the right is given to voters who simply need to show proper ID. These forms are generated by the state. The "Shrek" form on the right does have Friday listed as the last day to dispute your ballot HOWEVER, the Registrar generated the smaller card to be handed out with the form that does have the correct day (see that full image HERE.) Election Chiefs were instructed to give both to provisional voters.
I have heard from many, many people on social media that the Registrar's office told provisional voters to return to the office to show ID or argue their case for their ballot to be counted on Friday, which was a federal holiday. The implication here is that by misdirecting these voters, they would not show up and their votes would go uncounted. I asked and asked and FINALLY got the form given to these voters (it is posted HERE) and it plainly says provisional voters have until Monday at noon to plead their case. Not all poll workers would handle this document, only election chiefs fill out provisional ballots and hand out the form so if you know a poll worker who never saw it, that doesn't mean it wasn't given out. I can see how there would be confusion since the two forms have different information but the card pictured above was generated and distributed in an attempt to make sure these voters had the correct information.
The Registrar/Electoral Board are illegally withholding the names of the provisional voters: I'm not gonna' lie, the already murky waters get very muddy here, indeed. First, you need to understand what the Electoral Board is and who is on it. The Electoral Board is actually the Registrar's supervising body. Right now, because we have a Democrat governor, the board consists of Democrats Doug Fuller and Marie Gozzi and Republican Gloria Chitum. The Electoral Board works throughout the county on election day handling whatever issues come up. They review the provisional ballots and locally certify the election results. They also vote to decide if they should release the names of provisional voters to the two political parties. In fact, all three unanimously voted not to release the names in their open meeting last week. Contrary to what some are saying, they are not legally required to release the names and in Stafford, they traditionally choose not to do so. This is a protection for voters, how would you like to have representatives of political parties banging on your doors and harassing you at all hours about your vote?
However, in very tight races like the one in HD 28, the EB and Registrar get a lot of pressure placed on them to release the information. It happened on the Republican side in 2013 when Mark Obenshein (R) lost to Mark Herring (D) in similarly close race. Stafford County refused to release the names to the Republican party at the time, even thought they were under tremendous pressure to do so. This seems to be happening again only from the Democrats this time.
This is a grey area, to be sure. One could argue for either side; what is more important, the voter's privacy or the voter's ability to have their vote count? It's a debate worth having and a hard choice to make, one I won't make today. Fortunately, I am not on the EB so I don't have to make it.
UPDATE: The Electoral Board has released the provisional names to the parties in a meeting held today.
As I have said many times, if there is any evidence that supports or proves that the Registrar has done anything illegal, I will post it immediately. If you have ANY information or evidence, please share it to the appropriate media outlet right away or send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope my Democrat friends understand that while this post is about Democrats, I have written plenty about underhanded dealings by Republicans on our Board of Supervisors. I will continue to report on news supported by evidence and expose those who deceive the public, regardless of party affiliation. BTW will continue to monitor this ever changing story.