Voting Rights Advocates Request Action to Address Conflict of Interest With Virginia Elections Official

Groups expressed concern over partisan electioneering and unfounded accusations

Virginia—Voting rights advocates today sent a letter to Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe and Secretary of Administration Nancy Rodrigues asking for a plan of action to address demonstrated conflicts of interest by a member of the Virginia State Board of Elections. Last week, the Winchester Star quoted Board Vice-Chair Clara Belle Wheeler as accusing one political party of “massive, well-organized, well-orchestrated voter fraud.” Ms. Wheeler subsequently engaged in partisan politicking, advocating for the election of one political party over another.

“Virginia’s elections must be free, fair, and accessible,” said Progress Virginia Education Fund Executive Director Anna Scholl. “The reported remarks made by Ms. Wheeler raise serious questions regarding conflict of interest. We’re asking Governor McAuliffe and Secretary Rodriguez to take immediate steps to address Ms. Wheeler’s comments and assure Virginians that we can depend on the security and integrity of our elections.”

The State Board of Elections is responsible for overseeing the administration of Virginia’s elections. Partisan interference in their decision-making could be detrimental to that work and to Virginians’ trust in their government and democracy. While representation on the board is divided between the two major political parties, a member of the board directly campaigning for one party is a breach of protocol and precedent in recent memory. In fact, Virginia state law prohibits Board members from maintaining an official role in a political party or a candidate’s campaign.

A copy of the letter is available online here.