Virginia’s attorney general is calling on the legislature to empower his office to launch investigations into allegations of vote-tampering like the incident that occurred last week in Harrisonburg.
Ken Cuccinelli II on Monday sent a letter to Sen. Donald McEachin in response to his call for a probe at the state level into the Oct. 15 incident. In his response, Cuccinelli said he is not opening an investigation because he hasn’t yet been asked to do so.
“My office does not have the authority to investigate election matters unless explicitly requested to do so by State Board of Elections, a local commonwealth’s attorney, or a local electoral board member,” the letter reads. “No such request has been made to date. ... My hands are tied in this matter.”
McEachin (D-Richmond) said he has seen the letter and suggested that political motivations could be the reason Cuccinelli is not pursuing the issue.
“A Republican-controlled State Board of Elections is not asking the Republican attorney general to investigate what a Republican vendor did about putting voter registration forms in the trash,” McEachin said when reached by telephone Monday. “Is anybody surprised?”
McEachin, who ran for state attorney general in 2001, said “there may be other ways” to prompt an investigation, but he did not elaborate on what those options could be.
At issue is an incident that began after a Rockingham County business owner found eight voter registration forms discarded behind his store. On Thursday, sheriff’s deputies arrested Colin Small of Phoenixville, Pa., on 13 charges of voter registration fraud.
Small was employed by Pinpoint, a company contracted by the Republican Party of Virginia to register voters. He has been released on bond.
Republicans have condemned the incident as Democrats called for an investigation. In his letter, Cuccinelli called for the upcoming General Assembly to consider legislation that would provide investigative authority to the Attorney General’s Office in relation to vote tampering and voter fraud.
Under state law, the attorney general does not currently have the authority to launch such investigations.
The Associated Press has reported that the State Board of Elections would not request an investigation by Cuccinelli’s office. But on Monday Donald Palmer, the board’s secretary, said board members have not decided whether to request an investigation and would need unanimous support to reach that decision.
“Tampering with voter forms is a serious crime, and I believe that this allegation should be thoroughly investigated,” the letter continues. “The current system is cumbersome and less effective than it would be if the prosecutors of the office of the attorney general could work across all of our local jurisdictions to punish violators.”