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VA Election Official Caught Packing Precincts

May 11, 2023 — Political warfare broke out in Buckingham County, VA, last week when their county’s Registrar, Lindsey Taylor, resigned after being caught packing precincts with more Democrat employees and not allowing any of the remedies listed under Virginia Code 24.2-115, when a party Chairperson objects to the proposed staffing list.

The statute requires each precinct to tolerate a partisan imbalance of “no more than one person,” but Buckingham GOP Chair, Ramona Christian, found her county’s partisan mix to be 54 Independents, 17 Republicans and 12 Democrats.

Former Registrar Lindsey Taylor (NBC Photo)

Virginia has party affiliations, so in order for Christian to learn the partisan leanings of each applicant, she had to pull their individual voting records and see which ballot they requested during a party primary election.

When Registrars cannot find enough potential workers from either party, they may substitute “Independent” employees into the mix, but that solution is only allowed if both party chairs are given notice ten days before the election and are allowed “the opportunity to provide additional nominations.” By the way, the law only allows one third of precinct workers to be “citizens who do not represent any political party.”

Christian approached Taylor within the specified time limits and offered four remediation options, but Registrar Taylor rejected all of them and held the elections with the illegal staffing ratios in place.

Amazingly, in what NBC, called a “conservative rural” county, during Virginia’s “red wave” 2022 election, the Democrat School Board candidate in Michelle Ford, managed to win. . . by nine votes.

Republicans wanted answers.

When Things Got Ugly

Under Virginia law, the party of the Governor gets a majority of the Election Board (“EB”) members, meaning one Democrat was about to be replace by a Republican in around 130 voting jurisdictions. During Christian’s applicant screening interview, she checked for any conflicts of interest in case they needed to not renew the incumbent Registrar’s contract.

After the election, the two GOP EB members submitted a long list of complaints about the previous year’s elections, tempers flared. Among their charges, three issues were most serious…

  • Not enough Republican poll workers (a majority were unaffiliated with either party, which violated a “parity law” in Virginia
  • Ballots that arrived at the registrar’s office late
  • Suspicious absentee ballots that merited further analysis.

That was when somebody launched a full-scale media attack in defense of Taylor. On April 10, 2023, a NBC posted a breathless hit piece that featured the Left’s favorite story line, “baseless voter fraud allegations.”

To buttress their “baseless” claim, they carefully quoted local Commonwealth Attorney, Kemper Beasley III, who told the “news” reporter that he found no evidence of criminal election fraud. This is not surprising, since there are no criminal penalties for breaking the parity law.

Shortly after the first NBC story posted, Taylor learned her contract was not being renewed, so she resigned. Two part-time employees quit at the same time. Her Deputy Registrar had resigned a month earlier, so staff experience was at an all-time low. This turnover fed the news cycle and they coined a new smear against advocates of electoral transparency: Election denialism.

A new round of attacks, led by NBC last week, explained how the EB hired and then fired one new Registrar, named Luis Gutierrez, who was quoted as saying, “the simplest explanation about elections here in Buckingham County is that they are fraudulent.”

What NBC Failed to Mention

Besides not telling its audience that Virginia has no party registration law, neither spin piece elaborated on the legit claims about how Taylor ignored the existing parity laws. This may have been a reasonable “cause” for her termination, but she resigned.

Buckingham County (VA) GOP Party Chair Ramona Christian

In Taylor’s defense, she could have used the law’s “if practicable” escape hatch in order to pack the precincts with partisans claiming to be “Independent.” This card works best when party officials fail to submit proposed staff members before the initial staffing deadline, at least ten days before February 1.

Taylor’s refusal to remedy the problem after Christian discovered it was a major problem.

Christian dug into the voting patterns of the “Independents” and told me “at least half were Democrats.”

In an email recounting the sequence of events, Christian listed four solutions that she had offered to Registrar Lindsey Taylor, but she rejected all of them.

Christian’s email also mentioned vandalism to her car and threats of violence to her EB members.

Christian said one of her newly appointed EB members resigned after someone “threatened to burn his house down.”

Another EB member had paint thrown on her front porch. Christian said somebody had threatened to kill her dogs and my car was keyed.

She suspects that some members from Taylor’s husband’s hunt club have been showing up at the EB meetings and yelling at the Republican members.

 

That she had to get the Sheriff to attend every meeting and walk the two Republicans to their cars.

Why This Matters

This entire episode could have been prevented if so-called “nonpartisan” election officials would avoid bulldozing the Chairmen of any major political party; and instead, respect their input–and state law–to achieve some measure of parity in the staffing of precincts.

North Carolina has the same problem, but apparently getting rid of a rogue Registrar in Virginia is a lot easier than getting rid of their counterpart in NC. As a result, county Republican leaders have nothing beyond moral suasion unless the state party leaders fight the issue with state election officials.

Click image to launch video.

We’ve covered this problems Wayne Schaefer had in Bladen here and again here. Lee County election officials achieved some level of precinct packing against their County GOP Chairman, Jim Womack.

And what regular reader could forget our 2020 expose into how Forsyth election officials skirted the law by packing 31 precincts with two Democrat Judges and a third Judge with a perfect Democrat voting record but conveniently identified as “Unaffiliated”?

In February 2023, we reported how one NC Republican, John Kane, got annoyed over this issue. In a video Kane produced, he explained how NCGOP Chairman Whatley and Wake GOP Chairman Donna Williams shared blame for the massive imbalance of poll workers.

We’ve heard of similar complaints, but this is mainly an internal party problem and that’s not the point of this post.

The bottom line is that lawmakers need to plug loopholes like this in state election laws, because inaction drags down public trust in both the results and in the officials conducting the elections.

Rather than fix the problems, we see the establishment launching Alinsky-type attacks on the messengers. Virginia’s Rhonda Christian is the latest example of someone trying to correct an election administrator and paying a high price for daring to do so.

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