Democratic Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe vetoed a bill that would require investigations of jurisdictions in the state whose voter rolls contain more registered voters than citizens who are eligible to vote.
The bill, first introduced by Republican state Sen. Mark D. Obenshain, was prompted by a report that shed light on eight Virginia counties that had more registered voters on their voter rolls than eligible voters.
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Obenshain's bill would require "the local electoral boards to direct the general registrars to investigate the list of persons voting at an election whenever the number of persons voting at any election in a county or city exceeds the number of persons registered to vote in that county or city," according to its summary. "The Department of Elections is required to provide certain data to any general registrar conducting such an investigation for the registrar's use during the investigation. The local electoral boards are required to make reports of the findings to the State Board. These reports are public documents."
McAuliffe, who vetoed the bill on Friday, claimed that the bill "would increase the administrative burden on local election officials" in his veto statement.
"By requiring 133 individual general registrars to conduct an investigation of voters under undefined standards, this bill raises serious constitutional questions," McAuliffe said in a statement. "It could expose eligible and properly registered Virginians to the risk of improper disenfranchisement."
"Further, Senate Bill 1105 would increase the administrative burden on local election officials. Rather than imposing unnecessary investigative requirements on those officials, we should focus attention and resources on the Commonwealth’s proven and efficient methods of list maintenance, which serve as a national model."
The Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF), an Indiana-based group that litigates to protect election integrity, released the report last year that sparked Obenshain's bill.
PILF's report found 1,046 aliens who were illegally registered to vote in a small sample of eight Virginia counties that responded to its public records requests.
Logan Churchwell, spokesman for the group, said it is reasonable to ask questions about voter rolls with more voters than citizens.
"It is entirely reasonable to ask questions when a voting jurisdiction has more registered voters than citizens," Churchwell told the Washington Free Beacon. "The Justice Department for the past eight years refused to perform similar studies using powers it was already vested with. Virginia lawmakers and private parties like PILF were forced to pick up the slack. It's astonishing to see a sitting governor calculate political blowback when voter roll integrity is at stake."
"As PILF previously reported, these eight problematic jurisdictions had more than 1,000 alien voters removed from the rolls in years past with roughly 20 percent casting ballots before being caught."
"There's smoke, fire, and damage right in front of Governor McAullife's eyes. When will he stop playing politics with Virginians' voting rights?"
Churchwell said that McAuliffe's veto was part of a larger record that prioritized politics over election integrity.
The state board of elections, led by McAuliffe appointees, in 2015 considered changing Virginia's voter registration form to make questions about U.S. citizenship and felon status optional.
McAuliffe vetoed a bill last year that would have required registrars to deny applicants who omitted biographical information about themselves, such as their age, on their voter forms.
In August 2016, McAuliffe cleared 13,000 felons to vote after the state supreme court struck down his previous order restoring the franchise to 206,000 felons.
McAuliffe's office did not immediately return a request for comment.