POSTED: 03:45 a.m. HST, Oct 20, 2012
LAST UPDATED: 09:30 a.m. HST, Oct 20, 2012
RICHMOND, Va. » The State Board of Elections will not ask the attorney general to investigate the case of a Republican operative accused of throwing eight completed voter registration forms in the trash, a board official said Friday.
State Sen. Donald McEachin of Henrico County, chairman of the Senate Democratic Caucus, called for an investigation by the attorney general afterColin Small of Phoenixville, Pa., was charged Thursday with 13 felony and misdemeanor counts. Rockingham County Sheriff Bryan E. Hutcheson said Small, 31, worked for an independent contractor hired by the Republican Party of Virginia to conduct voter registration drives. Small was arrested after the voter registration applications were found in a trash bin behind a Harrisonburg store.
McEachin urged Republican Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli to launch his own investigation.
"This is simply too serious an issue," McEachin said in a statement. "Voting is the bedrock of our democracy and we, as Virginians, deserve to know exactly what happened, how widespread the abuse and under whose orders, if any, the individual in question acted."
Cuccinelli spokesman Brian Gottstein said the attorney general can investigate election issues only if requested by the State Board of Elections.
Nikki Sheridan, the board's confidential policy adviser, said the case appeared to be an isolated incident.
The Republican National Committee provides funds to state GOP offices for voter registration drives in swing states like Virginia. Small worked for a company, Pinpoint, that was hired by the Virginia GOP for that purpose.
"The actions taken by this individual are a direct contradiction of both his training and explicit instructions given to him," state GOP chairman Pat Mullins said in a statement. "The Republican Party of Virginia will not tolerate any action by any person that could threaten the integrity of our electoral process. The individual in question was fired immediately after we learned of his alleged actions."
Late last month, the RNC fired another voter registration contractor — Virginia-based Strategic Allied Consulting — after more than 100 suspect forms it collected in Florida were turned over to local prosecutors. Virginia was one of the states that had a contract with the company.
"We have heard a lot from Republicans both in the Virginia General Assembly and across the country about their numerous fears that voters were committing fraud," McEachin said, referring to the GOP's push for strict voter identification laws. "It certainly looks like, instead, the fraud is being committed by the Republicans on the voters."
The registration forms that were found in the Harrisonburg trash bin were rushed to the Rockingham County registrar's office Monday afternoon, just before the 5 p.m. deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 6 election.
"They had a police escort from the store to our office," said registrar Doug Geib.
Sheridan said five of the potential voters lived in Rockingham, two in Augusta County and one in Page County. Three were already registered voters. One was denied because of a felony conviction, and the other four were successfully processed, she said.
Officials did not know why Small would have thrown the registration in the trash. Virginia voters do not declare a political party affiliation when they register.
Geib said he had to correct Small's misconception that he was not required to submit registration forms for voters who are already on the rolls. He also instructed Small that he had to submit every application regardless of whether it was complete.
The law requires third parties that gather registration forms to submit them within 15 days. Geib could not comment on whether the discarded forms were late, saying that would be part of the investigation.
Small is charged with eight felony counts of disclosure of voter registration application, four misdemeanor counts of destruction of voter registration application and one misdemeanor count of obstruction of justice.
It was unclear whether Small has an attorney.