A Virginia commonwealth’s attorney has warned prosecutors statewide Wednesday against prosecuting certain voter registration fraud cases, due to concerns raised by Virginia registrars. In an email obtained by WTOP through a Freedom of Information Act request, Chuck Slemp, commonwealth’s attorney for Wise County and the City of Norton, said he has dropped prosecutions in “several cases” where it initially appeared that felons were trying to register to vote through the Department of Motor Vehicles, because he cannot be completely sure any data in the system is accurate. “I believe that all Commonwealth’s Attorneys should be made aware of this issue because there may be a considerable risk of unfair prosecution of certain individuals statewide,” the email forwarded on Slemp’s behalf said.
WTOP first reported the concerns earlier this week. In a phone interview, Slemp called the risk of faulty convictions a prosecutor’s worst nightmare.
The Department of Elections has downplayed the concerns, and Elections Commissioner Edgardo Cortes said again Thursday that the root problem comes from registrars who printed forms that were meant to be entirely electronic, thus putting address update requests on the same form as pre-existing voter registration information, including whether the applicant said he or she is a citizen, a felon or mentally incapacitated.