By MATTHEW BARAKAT, Related Press
FALLS CHURCH, Va. (AP) — It is a problem the highest GOP contenders for governor in Virginia say is a excessive precedence: election integrity.
Whether or not it is tightening voter ID legal guidelines, making the Division of Elections politically impartial, or cleansing up voter rolls, the candidates say change is important to revive integrity to the voting course of.
However with a notable exception, the main candidates are unwilling to say that their prioritization of the difficulty stems from a perception that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump.
With a majority of Virginia Republicans telling pollsters that they consider the election was stolen — a declare that has been repeatedly refuted by elections officers nationwide — candidates have to discover a option to faucet into the occasion base’s anger concerning the election with out linking themselves too carefully to Trump’s claims of voter fraud. Doing so might injury them within the common election: The identical Christopher Newport College ballot that exhibits Republicans in Virginia consider the election was stolen additionally exhibits that two-thirds of independents and 100% of Democrats consider Joe Biden’s victory was reputable.
Stephen Farnsworth, political science professor on the College of Mary Washington, stated “election integrity” rhetoric offers a method for candidates to point out the GOP based mostly that they’re “Trump adjoining.”
“Speaking about ‘election integrity’ is an efficient option to attain Trump supporters with out torpedoing possibilities of a common election victory in November,” Farnsworth stated.
Former Republican U.S. Rep. Denver Riggleman, who has not dominated out an impartial bid for governor, and who has been crucial of his occasion’s acceptance of election conspiracy theories, stated the emphasis on election integrity is a wink and a nod to these conspiracy fanatics.
“’Election integrity’ is a canopy time period for ‘Cease the Steal.’ And ‘Cease the Steal’ is a canopy time period for ’QAnon,'” Riggleman stated in a telephone interview, referring to the frilly conspiracy idea that claims Trump is waging a secret battle in opposition to a “deep state.”
Among the many 4 main candidates to win the nomination on the occasion’s Could 8 conference, Amanda Chase, Kirk Cox, Pete Snyder and Glenn Youngkin all say election integrity is a prime situation.
However Cox, Snyder and Youngkin all body the difficulty as distinct from Trump’s claims of voter fraud.
Youngkin, in an interview, stated Democrats expressed comparable issues about fraud in 2016 when Hillary Clinton misplaced to Trump.
“It is a problem that is been raised by each events for 10 years,” Youngkin stated. “It is a democracy situation.”
Cox, the previous Virginia Home speaker and a longtime legislator, cited a 2017 legislative audit that discovered potential issues within the state division of elections, together with its susceptibility to political affect.
He blamed modifications made by the Democratic-controlled legislature to make voting simpler through the pandemic for undermining voter confidence.
“Lots of people misplaced confidence within the system,” he stated. “A few of these issues that handed within the legislature, they have been problematic.”
Nonetheless, he was fast to level out that he accepted Biden because the reputable president as soon as the states forged their Electoral Faculty ballots in December.
Snyder’s marketing campaign didn’t make the candidate accessible for an interview, however in his announcement of an election integrity plan that features necessities for signature verification on absentee ballots and different objects, he makes no point out of Trump or the 2020 election and he says that “for too many Virginians, whether or not they be Republicans, Democrats or Independents, belief in our election system has been severely strained.”
The exception among the many 4 candidates, as is usually the case, is state Sen. Amanda Chase, who has been unapologetic in her assist of Trump.
When requested how she stands out on election integrity from the opposite candidates, she cited her participation within the Jan. 6 “Cease the Steal” rally that spawned the mob march on the Capitol. Whereas she was clear that she didn’t condone violence or criminality, she reiterated her stance that many rally members have been patriots.
“No different candidate was on the Jan. 6 rally. I am the one one who says the 2020 election was stolen. They have not been on the entrance strains like I’ve,” she stated in a telephone interview.
She stated she hasn’t met a single grass-roots Republican who believes Biden’s election was reputable.
Chase stated she is even skeptical that Biden carried Virginia, regardless of official election returns displaying he gained by 10 factors. The outcomes have been affirmed by a statewide audit during which roughly 1,400 ballots have been pulled at random. Chase, although, stated the audit didn’t pull sufficient ballots.
Riggleman stated a number of the particular coverage points cited by the candidates, like requiring voter identification, should not essentially dangerous concepts. He famous that he sponsored laws with Democrat Tulsi Gabbard to finish the observe of “poll harvesting” during which one individual collects absentee or mail-in ballots on behalf of many others.
“However we’re not even capable of have that dialogue as a result of in actuality the speak about ‘election integrity’ is a wink and a nod on the Cease the Steal citizens,” he stated.
Whereas he disapproves of the tactic, he stated from a purely political standpoint, candidates realize it permits them to faucet into the vitality of an indignant GOP base.
“It may be wildly profitable,” he predicted.
The occasion’s conference can be “unassembled,” which means GOP officers plan to supply a number of voting websites across the state the place conference delegates who pre-register as such can forged ballots. The opposite candidates acknowledged by the occasion are Paul Davis, Peter Doran, Octavia Johnson, Sergio de la Pena, Merle Rutledge and Kurt Santini.
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