Richmond, VA — Today, new reporting from the Virginia Mercury details how the Republican candidates for Virginia are focusing their campaigns on Trumpian election conspiracies and hard line voting restrictions. This report comes just one day after the Washington Post Editorial Board condemned Virginia Republicans for their complete allegiance to Donald Trump’s election lies and commitment to repressive voting restrictions.
In Virginia, every single Republican candidate for governor is mimicking Donald Trump’s attacks on our elections. With the candidates spreading conspiracy theories about the 2020 election, praising Georgia’s recent voter suppression law, and launching “election integrity” plans to restrict Virginians’ voting rights, the GOP’s extreme race to the right has taken a turn towards an assault on democracy.
See key excerpts below and read the full report here.
Virginia Mercury: For Virginia GOP gubernatorial hopefuls, post-Trump era starts with big emphasis on ‘election integrity’
By Ned Oliver
Not even Donald Trump alleged voter fraud contributed to his 10-point loss in Virginia last November. But the former president’s baseless post-election allegations have nonetheless dominated debate among Virginia Republicans as they prepare to select their nominee for governor in this year’s election.
The four major candidates in the race have all made election laws a top issue, promising to eliminate ballot drop boxes, scrutinize absentee ballots and reinstate photo ID requirements.
Only one candidate has directly tied their calls for more restrictive voting laws directly to Trump’s fraud claims, which were rejected by every court in which they were presented and contradicted by his own attorney general. Sen. Amanda Chase, R-Chesterfield, held a rally outside the Virginia Department of Elections in November as votes were still being tallied, accusing election officials around the country of participating in the conspiracy.
In January, her colleagues in the state Senate censured her for spreading misinformation and speaking in support of the mob that stormed the Capitol — a rebuke she boasts about on the campaign trail.
“Guess what, I doubled down when Democrats asked me to apologize for it, because I believe the election was stolen,” she told attendees at a GOP meeting in Amelia County last week.
Two other candidates, Pete Snyder and Glenn Youngkin, have embraced the issue while declining to say whether they believe Biden’s November victory was legitimate. [...]
Not long after he launched his campaign, Youngkin announced he was forming an “Election Integrity Task Force,” which his website describes as “a group of concerned, law-abiding citizens” who will help him “ensure every legal vote is counted quickly and accurately.”
People who sign up will be mailed an official membership card, his website says, though it’s unclear what his task force members are expected to do once credentialed. “They add their voice to ours so we can speak with a louder voice that this is an issue that Virginians are worried about,” Youngkin said of the effort.
Snyder, a businessman who, like Youngkin, has never before held elected office, declined an interview request. But his campaign has boasted about having the most comprehensive plan to address what it calls “skepticism among voters.”
Snyder’s campaign co-chairs, Ken Cuccinelli and Mark Obenshain, dismissed Youngkin’s task force as “toothless” in an op-ed last month, alleging his opponents were just paying lip service to the issue. Among other things, Snyder calls for giving state police a greater role in investigating voter fraud and using tax records to verify addresses.
Del. Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, is the only candidate in the race who has said he believes Biden won the election legitimately. But like his opponents, he says he’d support an array of new voting restrictions, recently voicing support for new voting rules adopted in Georgia, which drew nationwide condemnation from Democrats and some major corporations. Speaking at the Princess Anne Republican Women’s Club, he also promised to create an “election integrity operation” that he said would target certain precincts for extra scrutiny.
“I will make sure — and I will fund this as governor — we have got to have an election integrity operation second to none inside these polling places,” he told the crowd. “And they can’t be in the nice precincts. It’s got to be in those tough precincts where we will make sure we have people who are trained, they know their code sections, they know exactly what to do.”
Asked this weekend what he considered a “nice” precinct and what he considered a “tough” precinct, he walked back the comment, saying he meant that his campaign would send poll watchers to all precincts in November, a common election-season initiative for both parties. He said he had no plans to make it a state-funded effort if elected.
A push for more restrictive voter laws has emerged as a focus for the GOP both nationally and in Virginia since Trump lost in November. Polling by Quinnipiac University this month showed three out of four Republicans believe there was “widespread fraud in the 2020 election.” (A Reuters/Ipsos poll released this week found half of Republicans surveyed believed the Jan. 6 Riot at the capitol “was led by violent left-wing protestors trying to make Trump look bad.”) [...]
“Virginia Republicans’ willingness to traffic in Donald Trump’s reckless election conspiracies says one of two things: they are either completely out of touch with reality, or they are willing to lie for political gain. Neither option belongs anywhere near the governorship,” said Manuel Bonder, a spokesman for the Democratic Party of Virginia.
At campaign stops around the state, Republican voters often listed tighter voting laws as their top priority alongside traditional GOP issues like gun rights. And a statewide statistical audit of the 2020 election results, which found only a 0.00000065117 percent chance the state’s voting system could have produced an inaccurate outcome, has done little to assuage their concerns.
At a meeting of the Amelia County Republican Party last week, Mary Alice Williams, the chair of the local electoral board, dismissed the effort as “fake,” describing how officials in Amelia were asked to verify just one ballot. She said that while she believed election officials acted appropriately in Amelia and other small jurisdictions, she feared massive fraud had gone undetected in Northern Virginia and other populous localities that overwhelmingly back Democrats.
While Republican hopefuls are quick to point out perceived shortcomings in the state-run election system, the Virginia GOP’s nominating contest this year is a complex endeavor that has fueled heated debate within the party over whether conservative voters will be able to trust and understand the process. [...]