A legislative review of Virginia’s Department of Elections has found that the agency had an “environment of open support for one party over the other” under leadership appointed by then-Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat. Staff from the General Assembly’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission presented their findings Monday in a 75-page report that pointed to the perception of political bias and a faulty IT system as two key issues state lawmakers may want to address. Jamie Bitz, a chief legislative analyst for JLARC, said interviews with local voter registrars and state elections staffers showed there was “a perception of political bias that was reflected in decisions about certain policies and certain agency operations.”
In an interview after the meeting, Bitz said JLARC was told that former agency leaders directed staff to help Democratic groups avoid campaign finance laws and rules that require political groups to put their names on ads.
“We heard of one example where the previous deputy commissioner at the agency very openly stated to a number of people, including to one high-level elections official in Virginia, that one of her key responsibilities was to help Hillary Clinton be elected president,” Bitz said.
Bitz said JLARC found no evidence that agency staff tried to tilt any election results, but Republicans seized on the finding as confirming their suspicions about how the Elections Department was run during the McAuliffe era.