Local election officials in Virginia have asked a prosecutor to look into the case of a Trump administration nominee who appears to have voted illegally in last year’s election.
Jeffrey Gerrish, nominated to be a deputy U.S. trade representative, cast a ballot in Virginia last November, four months after purchasing a home in Maryland.
A hearing on Gerrish’s nomination is scheduled Thursday in front of the Senate Finance Committee, and Democratic aides say they expect his voting behavior to be a prominent issue. It came to light during the vetting of his nomination.
Gerrish’s situation has come under heightened scrutiny because of the spotlight President Trump has put on fraudulent voting. Earlier this year, he created a commission to examine the issue after claiming, without evidence, that he lost the popular vote against Democrat Hillary Clinton because of millions of illegally cast ballots.
Late last week, Cameron Glenn Sasnett, the general registrar and director of the Office of Elections in Fairfax County, Va., sent a letter to the Fairfax commonwealth’s attorney, asking for a review of Gerrish’s situation.
“I am forwarding this matter to your office for investigation to determine if he violated the provisions of [the Virginia code on illegal voting] or any other applicable State or Federal election laws,” Sasnett wrote.
The office of the Fairfax commonwealth’s attorney did not immediately respond Wednesday to questions about whether an investigation has been launched or will take place.
The portion of the code cited by Sasnett says that anyone who “wrongfully deposits a ballot” can be charged with a misdemeanor, while anyone who “votes knowing that he is not qualified to vote where and when the vote is to be given” can be charged with a felony.
Gerrish, a Washington lawyer who specializes in international trade, did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday or last month when the issue first became public.
A senior administration official familiar with Gerrish’s situation said last month that Gerrish’s family moved to Maryland in the summer of 2016 after living in Virginia more than 18 years.
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. Under Virginia law, the grace period is 30 days.
Gerrish did not register to vote in Maryland until February, according to state records. As of this week, he remained registered to vote in Virginia, according to public records, though his status is now listed as “inactive.”
J. Christian Adams, a Republican member of Trump’s voting fraud commission, answered “perhaps” when asked if he thinks someone with Gerrish’s circumstances should be prosecuted.
Adams, who is president of the Public Interest Legal Foundation, said nonresident cases can be very difficult to prove.
“Cases where people vote twice at once are much easier to prove and those aren't being prosecuted,” said Adams, an advocate of more rigorous prosecutions.
An aide to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the top Democrat on the Finance Committee, said several pointed questions about Gerrish’s voting situation are expected at Thursday’s hearing, focusing on why a veteran attorney was not able to comply with voting laws.
Julia Lawless, a spokeswoman for the committee’s chairman, Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), said that Gerrish “has cooperated with the Senate Finance Committee's bipartisan vetting process in good faith.”
“At the hearing on Thursday, members will be able to further examine his record and experience based on information provided during the vetting process,” she said.
An aide to U.S. trade representative Robert E. Lighthizer on Wednesday pointed to a statement he made last month in which Lighthizer said he fully supports Gerrish’s nomination and called him “one of the foremost experts on U.S. trade law and policy.”