Virginia NAACP Seeks Records Regarding Attorney General’s “Election Integrity Unit”’

Statement of President Robert N. Barnette, Jr.

The Virginia State Conference of the NAACP has grave concerns about the recently formed “Election Integrity Unit” created by Attorney General Jason Miyares.  Most Virginians do not know much about this Unit, or why the Attorney General believed it was necessary to establish it. And he’s not providing much public information about its planned operations.

That’s why the Virginia State Conference NAACP has asked the Attorney General to produce records about this new Unit under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act. 

Against the backdrop of the Commonwealth’s deplorable history of intentional voter disenfranchisement and voter suppression. The Virginia State Conference of the NAACP is alarmed at the probability of this Election Integrity Unit creating obstacles to voting, especially for Black Virginians.

We believe there’s no legitimate justification for the Attorney General’s creation of the new Election Integrity Unit, except to pander to election deniers and conspiracy theorists.

The Attorney General has stated to the press that it should be easy to vote in Virginia and hard to cheat. We are pleased that the Attorney General agrees with the advocacy position we in the Virginia State Conference have held for decades, that it should be easy to vote.  

    • But we are concerned that this Election Integrity Unit is designed to do the opposite, to make it hard for certain people, particularly people of color, to cast their legitimate votes
      • And we want to make clear that “election cheating” certainly includes using the power of state government to try to intimidate and keep people from voting. 
      • And we are not aware of any evidence epidemic of voter fraud that requires the response of a special task force of lawyers, investigators, and staff hand-picked by the elected Attorney General. 

Given the lack of information and transparency, we’ve requested records related to the establishment of this new Election Integrity Unit, its organization, mission, staffing, activities, and financial expenditures.

We’ve also asked for records regarding the number of instances of voter fraud, or “election cheating” as the Attorney General has claimed, in Virginia since 2008. 

Given the Attorney General’s position on the importance of the Election Integrity Unit it is inconceivable that the documents regarding its the creation and operation are not readily available.

Likewise, if voter fraud were such a big problem evidence of the number of incidents of voter fraud over the past year should be at the Attorney General’s fingertips.

Instead of promptly producing these records, the AG has shameless stonewalled by saying it would take more than 500 hours of lawyer and staff time to collect and review these records, and he has demanded that the NAACP pay nearly $20,000 in advanced for the collection and review of information that should have already been assembled prior to the creation of the Election Integrity Unit which we are entitled to under state law.

And the Attorney General’s demand that the NAACP pay $20,000 or more for that collection and review by his staff is plainly excessive.  This dubious demand appears designed to dissuade the State Conference from exercising its right under state law to bring these documents into public view.

Given the importance of fair elections, and the Attorney General’s stated desire for transparency, we would have thought he would want to make these records public.  We would have thought the Attorney General would want his Election Integrity Unit to operate in daylight. 

Instead, he’s trying to keep these documents hidden and have the hand-picked team in his new Election Integrity Unit operate behind closed doors. 

The Virginia State Conference of the NAACP will not be dissuaded.  We will not back down.  We will hold the Attorney General accountable and shine a light on this Election Integrity Unit. 

That’s why we will pay the nearly $20,000 deposit under protest that the Attorney General demanded for his staff to start collecting and reviewing these documents.

The Virginia State Conference NAACP is standing up for transparency. The NAACP is standing up for fair elections.  NAACP is standing up for the right for all Virginians to cast their votes free from interference and intimidation, including interference and intimidation by those in state office. 

The Virginia State Conference NAACP asks all Virginians to join with us and support us in this fight for transparency and free and fair elections.

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ABOUT THE VIRGINIA NAACP
Founded in 1935, the Virginia State Conference of NAACP Branches (Virginia NAACP) is the oldest and largest nonpartisan civil rights organization in the Commonwealth, overseeing over 100 NAACP branches, youth councils, and college chapters. The Virginia NAACP is focused on being the preeminent voice of Black Virginians and advocating for policies and programs to benefit Blacks and people of color. You can read more about the Virginia NAACP’s work and our six “Game Changer” issue areas by visiting NAACPVA.org.

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