Well, well, well, the Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF) has been vindicated. In 2016 and 2018, the conservative public interest group documented more than 1,000 instances in which non-citizens were registered to vote in Virginia elections and that 200 in which they had actually voted — based on numbers from localities accounting for only 20% of Virginia’s population. (See our summary of the PILF report here.)
PILF charged that the McAuliffe administration’s Department of Elections had actively tried to block the research project by telling local registrars not to cooperate. As the PILF report noted:
Virginia state election officials are obstructing access to public records that reveal the extent to which non-citizens are participating in our elections. These obstructionist tactics have led to PILF … obtaining data from only a handful of Virginia counties so far. But the information from a few counties demonstrates a massive problem.
The mainstream media totally ignored the story, and many Bacon’s Rebellion readers pooh-poohed PILF’s findings. But yesterday the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission presented its report on Virginia’s election oversight system. The Richmond Times-Dispatch summarized the most disturbing findings:
Jamie Bitz, a chief legislative analyst for JLARC, said interviews with local voter registrars and state elections staffers showed there was “a perception of political bias that was reflected in decisions about certain policies and certain agency operations.”
“We heard of one example where the previous deputy commissioner at the agency very openly stated to a number of people, including to one high-level elections official in Virginia, that one of her key responsibilities was to help Hillary Clinton be elected president,” Bitz said.
The JLARC report did not address the specific charges raised by PILF, but it does confirm that the Department of Elections under the McAuliffe administration had a blatant partisan bent. (The study also said that Elections under Governor Ralph Northam has improved.)
While the JLARC study provides a useful overview of the strengths and weaknesses of the system, it is disappointing that it shows cognizance of the extensive, thoroughly documented work performed by PILF, or even to address the same issues. For example, JLARC lists several ways in which Virginia’s system of elections is vulnerable to fraud:
- An individual is not eligible to vote—because of court action—but casts a vote.
- An individual is not eligible to vote—not a resident of Virginia—but casts a vote.
- An individual fraudulently uses the identity of a person who is no longer a resident of Virginia to cast a vote.
- An individual fraudulently uses the identity of a deceased person to cast a vote.
- An individual who is not a U.S. citizen fraudulently affirms their citizenship and subsequently casts a vote.
Remarkably, the report fails to address the charges raised by PILF, which focused on a sixth type of fraud — in which individuals affirm their non-citizenship at the Department of Motor Vehicles and vote anyway.
“It is nearly impossible to quantify the likelihood or occurrence of voter fraud in Virginia,” the JLARC report goes on to say. “It is likely that some instances of voter fraud occur but are not discovered or do not result in fraud convictions. There are anecdotes of voter fraud in Virginia, but JLARC staff were not presented with any verifiable evidence of large-scale voter fraud of this type.”
Contrary to JLARC’s contention that the incidence is “impossible to quantify,” PILF did quantify an exact number for cooperating localities — and JLARC easily could have followed PILF’s methodology to do the same for the entire state.
Bacon’s bottom line: The JLARC report is simultaneously disturbing, based on evidence it uncovered, and disappointing, based on the evidence it ignored. The problem that PILF identified — registration of non-citizens and, to a lesser extent, voting by non-citizens — continues to go unaddressed. One can argue that the phenomenon is not pervasive enough to sway any but the tightest of elections, but that makes the problem no less real.