By Dylan Scott & Tara Golshan, Vox
The Scott Taylor voter signature forgery scandal, briefly explained
What’s the scandal? Taylor campaign staffers have been accused of submitting forged signatures for dozens of voters — including those of four dead people, as the Virginian-Pilot reported — to get independent candidate Shaun Brown on the ballot in November.
Brown, who ran against Taylor in 2016 as a Democrat, has said she didn’t know the Republican campaign had been collecting signatures on her behalf. The apparent goal of keeping Brown on the ballot would have been to split the Democratic vote between Brown and this year’s Democratic candidate, Elaine Luria. (Brown has her own legal troubles to worry about, as she is already under legal scrutiny for allegedly taking money from a school nutrition program targeted at low-income kids.)
According to the Virginian-Pilot, which attempted to contact hundreds of people whose signatures appeared on the forms to put Brown on the ballot, 59 people said that they had not signed the forms and therefore their signatures were fraudulent; several other signatures, including one of an 83-year-old man who died in 2016, were of deceased people.
Taylor has been subpoenaed to testify about what he knew about the scheme, Roll Call reported this week. He has said he was aware that his staffers had been collecting signatures for Brown, but claimed it was because they believe she had been “disenfranchised” by the Democratic Party.
A criminal investigation is ongoing. The Washington Post reported a state police investigator attended this week’s court hearing.
What does the race look like? Taylor was always going to have a tough race against Luria, and the forgery scandal will only make it more difficult. The Cook Political Report moved the Virginia Second from Lean Republican to Toss-Up after Brown was taken off the ballot this week.
“Taylor is still a relatively € freshman, and the ‘dirty tricks’ that have dominated news of the race for the past few weeks could help Democrats chip away at his image as a squeaky-clean Navy SEAL,” Cook’s Dave Wasserman wrote.
Luria is a former US Navy commander who now runs an art studio. She has earned the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s Red to Blue imprimatur, which means the national party thinks she’s shown she can be a credible candidate.
In 2016, though Taylor won handily, Trump beat Hillary Clinton in the Virginia Second by just 3 points. It’s a pretty diverse district too: 68 percent white, 20 percent black, 5 percent Asian, 5 percent Latino. Cook rates the district R+3, which means all else being equal, it is 3 points more Republican than the country as a whole.
Taylor is an incumbent, but he is hardly an entrenched one. The left-leaning Public Policy Polling found Luria trailing by just 6 points in an April poll.