The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Jason Miyares’s ‘Election Integrity Unit’ is a sham

A voter fills out a ballot Nov. 2 at George C. Marshall High School in Falls Church. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

Steve Descano, a Democrat, is the Fairfax County commonwealth’s attorney.

Virginia Attorney General Jason S. Miyares’s recent announcement that he will staff an “Election Integrity Unit” with 20 attorneys from his office is just the latest indicator that Virginia’s self-anointed “top cop” cares more about executing on the priorities of his far-right political benefactors than delivering on the priorities of everyday Virginians.

This sham unit, in fact, constitutes a solution in search of a problem, threatens the voting rights of Black and Brown Virginians and is an unconscionable allocation of limited resources.

Take it from the guy in charge of prosecuting crimes in Virginia’s most vote-rich jurisdiction: The commonwealth does not have a voter fraud problem. Full stop. If there were a widespread voter fraud crisis, these cases would come across my desk. In fact, I even deputized a prosecutor in my office specifically to be on call for law enforcement should any issues arise during the two high-turnout elections that have transpired since I took office. The outcome? Exactly zero credible allegations of voter fraud were referred to our team.

And this wasn’t a surprise, considering that statewide post-election audits have time and time again found no fraudulent voting in Virginia elections. In fact, an analysis of voter fraud by the Brennan Center for Justice estimated the incident rate of voter fraud in the United States to be between 0.0003 percent and 0.0025 percent — not exactly of a scale adequate to necessitate a 20-person unit in the attorney general’s office.

The Post's View: Virginia’s ‘Election Integrity Unit’ achieves the opposite of its stated purpose

But Miyares’s new unit isn’t actually about securing elections; it’s about increasing his fellow Republicans’ chances of winning elections. Crying wolf about nonexistent voter fraud as a pretext for limiting access to the ballot box is in fact a favorite tactic of the Republican Party. Whether through legislation, such as Texas’s recent law severely restricting how votes may be cast, or through unilateral action, such as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R) “election police,” Republicans across the nation have made plainly evident that they’ll stop at nothing to prevent Black and Brown Americans from voting. And don’t take my word for it. When discussing the motivation behind Texas’s shameful legislation, state Rep. Justin Holland (R) said plainly, Democrats are “going to lose seats.”

Though the attorney general’s unit might not have any actual crimes to investigate, it does follow in the GOP’s proud tradition of using government offices to pick their voters when Republican officeholders don’t trust the voters to pick them.

What makes this grandstanding by Miyares even more disgraceful is that while our “top cop” claims to care deeply about community safety, he is willfully squandering precious and considerable resources on this sham unit that could instead be used to address matters vital to Virginians’ safety. Miyares himself lobbied the General Assembly unsuccessfully last session for $2.6 million in additional funding to hire more than 20 new attorneys to handle what he claimed was a “staggering volume” of criminal appeals.

Well, Mr. Attorney General, it looks as though you might now have 20 attorneys with some time to kill. Maybe when you’re done feeding your national party’s obsession with limiting voter access, you can get around to assigning the attorneys some criminal appeals.

I won’t hold my breath.

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