NORFOLK, Va. — The Virginia NAACP is calling on Attorney General Jason Miyares to disband his recently-announced Election Integrity Unit, arguing he should focus on expanding the right to vote.
The organization said it would like to see Miyares replace the unit with a task force "focused on reducing voter suppression; ending voter intimidation; increasing voter registration; and increasing voter participation."
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“Many studies have shown that 'voter fraud' is virtually nonexistent in the Commonwealth of Virginia and the Washington Post conducted a study that determined that only 31 out of 1 billion votes cast in the United States between 2000 and 2014 were alleged to be potentially fraudulent," Virginia NAACP President Robert N. Barnette, Jr. wrote in a statement.
He continued: "The Attorney General should focus on ensuring all eligible Virginians have the right to vote and that all eligible Virginians can vote without threat of intimidation.”
Miyares' office said the unit — comprised of around 20 existing attorneys, investigators and paralegals — will give legal advice to the Virginia Department of Elections, and investigate and prosecute violations of Virginia election law.
The Republican attorney general said the unit is part of his work to "increase transparency and strengthen confidence" in Virginia's elections.
Democrats criticized the creation of the unit, connecting it with false claims of election fraud espoused by former President Donald Trump and his supporters.
"With the creation of this unit, Attorney General Miyares has fully embraced Trump’s 'Big Lie' and the far-right fringes of the Republican party," Gianni Snidle, a spokesperson for the Democratic Party of Virginia, wrote.
Snidle referred to Miyares' meetings with State Sen. Amanda Chase — who was censured in the Virginia Senate after she praised rioters who attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 — regarding election fraud.
In a Facebook post on Sept. 9, Chase corroborated that meeting and praised the creation of the unit.
"This is a huge win for my Election Integrity Team, for We the People and for fair, transparent and honest elections," Chase wrote. "Definitely a step in the right direction."
In terms of Virginia's history with any fraudulent voter activity, the state already has a strong track record of secure elections without any evidence of widespread voter fraud, according to 13News Now political analyst Quentin Kidd.
Earlier in 2022, an audit by the Virginia Department of Elections found the results of the 2021 general election to be accurate.
“I went to our communications team, and I said ‘Let’s find some data to support creating an 'Election Integrity Unit.' But they couldn’t find any," Barnette said in an interview with 13News Now.
Barnette added that the creation of the unit puts doubt in people’s minds about participating in elections.
13News Now reached out to Virginia Beach Electoral Board Chair Jeff Marks about the creation of the unit, saying in a statement:
“We are not aware of any voter fraud or suppression, but the City of Virginia Beach Electoral Board and Registrar’s Office welcomes any actions taken by Attorney General Miyares to maintain election integrity.”
Victoria LaCivita, a spokesperson for Miyares, acknowledged there hasn't been evidence of widespread fraud in Virginia, but the office is committed to addressing irregularities and problems, including "some of the problems that the NAACP has challenged in various states across the nation.”
She referred to an NBC New York report about a New Jersey NAACP chapter leader's calls to throw out a local vote-by-mail election in 2020.
LaCivita criticized the Democrats and NAACP's response to the unit, referring to election concerns from past Democratic candidates who ultimately acknowledged their losses.
“It’s surprising that Terry McAuliffe, Hillary Clinton, and Stacey Abrams’ concerns about elections haven’t received this level of pushback from partisan Democrats and the NAACP," LaCivita said.
She added the issue of election integrity is personal for Miyares, citing his family's past in Cuba.
“Attorney General Miyares’ mother fled Communist Cuba and an oppressive regime that suppressed her right to vote and the right to speak freely, so, this issue is personal for him; Jason Miyares would never do anything to disenfranchise someone’s voting rights," LaCivita said. "The right to vote is one of the most sacred rights that we have in America, and Attorney General Miyares is committed to ensuring that it’s easy to vote and that every vote in Virginia is counted.”
LaCivita also wrote Miyares has said "countless times" that Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election.