As President Trump’s controversial commission on voter fraud seeks to gather evidence, it won’t have to look far for some suspicious activity: a ballot cast in last fall’s presidential election in Virginia by Jeffrey Gerrish, Trump’s nominee to be a deputy U.S. trade representative.
Gerrish, whose nomination is pending in the Senate, sold a home in Fairfax County, Va., in July 2016 and bought a home in North Bethesda, Md., the same month, according to public records of the sales, which list the Maryland home as Gerrish’s “principal residence.”
Gerrish did not return calls or email this week seeking an explanation. Under Virginia law, voting in the state is limited to residents, with some exceptions, including those who move out of the jurisdiction within 30 days of a presidential election.
A senior administration official familiar with Gerrish’s situation said that his family moved to Maryland last summer after living in Virginia more than 18 years. At the time, Gerrish had a Virginia driver’s license and was still registered to vote in Virginia.
Gerrish understood there was a grace period for switching voter registration but did not know the length, said the official, who requested anonymity to discuss the issue more freely. Gerrish did not register to vote in Maryland until February, according to state records.
Edgardo Cortes, commission of the Virginia Department of Elections, declined to discuss Gerrish’s case in particular but said defining residency for voting purposes is a “complex issue” that is ultimately decided locally.
Gerrish's nomination is under consideration by the Senate Finance Committee, which was briefed on his voting history on Tuesday, according to a senior congressional aide.
Following inquiries by The Washington Post, U.S. trade representative Robert E. Lighthizer released a statement backing Gerrish’s nomination as deputy United States trade representative for Asia, Europe, the Middle East and industrial competitiveness.
“I fully support the nomination of Jeff Gerrish as Deputy U.S. Trade Representative,” Lighthizer said. “He has been practicing international trade law on behalf of American companies for nearly 20 years. He is one of the foremost experts on U.S. trade law and policy and is preeminently qualified for this position.”
Gerrish is head of the International Trade Group at the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.
Whatever the exact circumstances surrounding Gerrish’s situation, it’s the kind of case that has drawn attention from members of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity in the early stages of its work. Leading members of the commission have sought to highlight cases in which people are registered in multiple states or are on the voter rolls illegally.
In some situations, what appears on the surface to be fraudulent turns out to have a rather benign explanation.
In January, for example, as Trump was calling for an investigation into his baseless claim that millions of fraudulently cast ballots had cost him the popular vote against Hillary Clinton, it came to light that Stephen K. Bannon, then the White House chief strategist, was registered to vote in both New York and Florida for several months.
That situation persisted even though Bannon had sent a letter trying to get himself removed from the rolls in Florida.