The GOP says that federal and state law support its policies. Democrats say that the Republicans are violating or misinterpreting the law, with the possible result that legitimate votes will go uncounted.
“At some point, we must consider litigation. We would be reckless if we don’t make some of these concerns known,” said Cesar del Aguila, chairman of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee, who raised some of the concerns in writing as far back as January.
Democrats also worry that the process could be tainted because some top officials in the Republican-controlled county election apparatus have records as aggressive GOP partisans.
In particular, Hans von Spakovsky, who is vice chairman of the Fairfax Electoral Board, is one of the nation’s most prominent advocates of voter identification laws strongly opposed by Democrats.
Von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, is one of two Republican appointees on the three-person board. The GOP controls electoral boards in the state right now because Gov. Bob McDonnell is a Republican.
Von Spakovsky’s work on voting issues in the Justice Department in the George W. Bush administration was sufficiently controversial that congressional Democrats blocked him from being appointed to the Federal Election Commission in 2008. He thinks Virginia’s
voter ID law is too lenient.
“I’ve read about his background. I’m concerned why and how he ended up in Fairfax County in his role,” del Aguila said.
Von Spakovsky said the GOP recruited him for the part-time Fairfax job because of his expertise gained in a quarter-century of work in election law.
“Take every single Democrat you’ve spoken to, and I bet I have more experience in election law and election administration than all of them combined,” he said.
It’s hard to overstate the potential stakes. Virginia, along with Ohio and Florida, is one of the principal battleground states whose electoral votes are being hotly contested in the presidential race.
Moreover, blue-leaning Fairfax is both Virginia’s most populous county and by far its largest source of potential Democratic votes.
If the national election is close and the vote in Virginia is disputed, then Fairfax and its election procedures could conceivably become a focus of national attention, much as Florida was during the 2000 recount.
The controversy highlights the generally overlooked reality in America that the people given the job of protecting the neutrality of the election process are often far from neutral themselves.