Elections department says issue kept ineligible Virginians on voter rolls since 2011

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A glitch in Virginia’s election system allowed roughly 1,000 people convicted of felonies who reoffended and should have been removed from voter rolls to cast a ballot since 2011, according to the state’s Department of Elections.

The computer code for the restoration of voter rights process did not account for times when “an individual might be reconvicted of a felony following the restoration of their rights” when it was written into the system, the department announced Friday, causing the issue.

The department said it identified 10,558 ineligible voters in this group since 2011. But only about 1,000 of them have cast a ballot in that time, state elections department spokesperson Andrea Gaines said.

“Approximately 1,000 voters have voted since 2011, and individuals with voter credit will be reported to the attorney general’s office for further investigation,” Gaines wrote in an email.

Virginia’s Department of Elections discovered the issue after an audit of its list maintenance processes and procedures ahead of the state’s transition to a new voter registration system.

“ELECT has automated a solution to cancel these voters and add them back to the prohibited list,” the department wrote in a release. “These records will begin populating in general registrars’ hoppers on Monday for cancellation at the local level.”

In Virginia, people convicted of a felony automatically lose their right to vote and must have the governor restore their rights before they can vote. Efforts from Democrats to amend the Virginia Constitution to have voting rights automatically restored once a person completes their prison sentence have failed in the General Assembly.

State Sen. Mamie Locke (D-Hampton) has proposed a constitutional amendment seeking to revive the effort during the 2023 state legislative session.

The 10,588 people convicted of another felony after having their voting rights restored make up a fraction of those who have regained those rights in Virginia under the last three state governors.

This includes more than 173,000 by former Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), more than 111,000 by former Gov. Ralph Northam (D) and thousands by Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) in his first year in office.

State Elections commissioner Susan Beals said Friday that the state’s aging IT system, which a 2018 study found “is not sufficiently functional or reliable,” would need to support the next two years of Virginia’s elections.

Ahead of November’s midterms, the state elections department discovered a glitch in the system that delayed the processing of voter registration applications submitted through the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles.

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