Electoral Board Uses Jury Questionnaires for Finding Ineligible Voters

August 22, 2012

The Albemarle County Electoral Board wants to clean up its voter rolls, but it's not happening without some controversy.

"This is not the time to be complacent and think, 'Oh, everything's OK,' when someone's vote is at stake," said Clara Belle Wheeler, a member of the Albemarle County Electoral Board.

Wheeler is behind the push to purge the county's list of ineligible voters. This spring, she and fellow electoral board member Alan Swinger submitted a court order to sift through 450 excused jury questionnaires to match them with voter records.

"They presented a request to the court," county registrar Jake Washburne said. "The request was granted."

"The clerk of the court showed us a copy machine, we copied them," Wheeler explained. "So we had their names and addresses."

The electoral board had access to all of the personal information listed on the jury questionnaires.

"It's up to us to assure the citizens that we're doing everything we can to make sure our voting registration records are accurate, and that's what we're trying to do," Wheeler said.

In a letter to the State Board of Elections last week, Wheeler outlined the results of the comparison. The local board found 159 discrepancies in Albemarle County. Six were non-citizens, three were felons, two were deceased and 148 had relocated.

Of the six non-citizens registered, the commonwealth's attorney is looking into just four cases of potential voter fraud. The other instances may have been a matter of filling out the questionnaire incorrectly or became American citizens and thus registered voters after filling out the questionnaire.

The three felons on the list registered to vote before being convicted of a crime and have not voted since.

As for those who relocated, "although it's a good idea to update your registration when you move, not everyone does it," Washburne said. "And there's no law that requires you to de-register yourself."

The commonwealth's attorney is also looking into a potential contempt of court charge. Though a judge allowed the board to access the documents, she did not allow photocopies because of the personal information.

James Heilman, the lone member of the three-person electoral board against accessing the jury questionnaires, told the Newsplex: "As an electoral board member, I'd like to work on ensuring a fair election on Nov. 6."

Still, Wheeler stands by using the method for purging the list.

"I think every inaccuracy needs to be corrected."

While the commonwealth's attorney is actively investigating both cases, no charges have been filed.

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