The Virginia State Board of Elections has unanimously voted to put out a formal request to Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli that he launch an investigation into the Harrisonburg voter registration controversy.
GOP contractor Colin Small was arrested last week and charged after he was caught throwing away eight filled out voter registration forms. In the wake of his arrest several democratic lawmakers called on the Attorney General to investigate to determine the problem was more widespread.
At the time, Cuccinelli reminded them that he cannot legally investigate a voter fraud claim without a formal request from the SBE. That request came today after a meeting of the board.
Cuccinelli welcomes the opportunity.
This office will perform a thorough investigation of these very serious allegations," the Attorney General said in a prepared statement. "Violations of election laws will not be tolerated in the commonwealth."
Almost immediately following the announcement, the liberal group "Progress Virginia" asked that Cuccinelli to hand the case off to the Federal Attorney General's Office. They claim Cuccinelli's connections to the Republican party are too deep to fairly investigate the claim.
While Progress Virginia has never called for Cuccinelli to get involved, several democratic lawmakers have.
In his statement, Cuccinelli said he would investigate the matter fairly.
"Citizens must feel confident that one of our most precious rights—the right to vote—is protected and that the electoral process is a secure and democratic one.," he said "We will do everything we can to ensure that."
Former Congressman Tom Perriello, now an analyst the liberal think tank, the Center For American Progress, told me that while he doesn't agree with Cuccinelli on much, he doesn't have a problem with him filling this role. He called the Attorney General a "straight shooter" who "believes in the rule of law".
Cuccinelli has not shied away from looking for a chance to investigate the matter. He even sent State Senator Don McEachin a letter that proposed changing state law to allow the Attorney General to looking to voter fraud matters on his own.
Our Nicole Bell is at the State Board of Elections meeting. She will have more on this developing story tonight at 5 and 6 on NBC12.
Cuccinellli's full statement can be found after the jump.
Statement from Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli:
"The State Board of Elections held a special meeting today and requested that my office look into the allegations of voter registration dumping in Rockingham County. This office will perform a thorough investigation of these very serious allegations. Violations of election laws will not be tolerated in the commonwealth. Citizens must feel confident that one of our most precious rights—the right to vote—is protected and that the electoral process is a secure and democratic one. We will do everything we can to ensure that.
"In performing our duties in this matter, we look forward to working with local authorities and the state police to root out any and all violations of law that may have occurred."
Under current Virginia law, the attorney general's office could not open an investigation until today's unanimous request from the State Board of Elections, or a request from a local commonwealth’s attorney or a local electoral board was made.
The attorney general is the only official in the commonwealth who has statewide prosecutorial authority. For this reason, Attorney General Cuccinelli supports legislation that would give the office concurrent authority with local commonwealth's attorneys to investigate and prosecute election law violations without awaiting a formal request from any other entity. This would allow the Office of the Attorney General to work across all jurisdictions with law enforcement and local prosecutors to investigate and punish violators.