Attorney General Jason Miyares has created a 20-member Election Integrity Unit within the Office of the Attorney General [OAG]; the unit will investigate and prosecute violations of election law, provide legal guidance, and work with law enforcement to protect election purity.
“I pledged during the 2021 campaign to work to increase transparency and strengthen confidence in our state elections. It should be easy to vote, and hard to cheat. The Election Integrity Unit will work to help to restore confidence in our democratic process in the Commonwealth,” Miyares said in a press release.
Miyares spokesperson Victoria LaCivita said the announcement is coming now because absentee voting starts in two weeks. No additional budget or funds are needed because the employees who make up the new unit are already employed by the OAG, with only a few to be focused full-time on election matters.
LaCivita said Miyares does not think the 2020 election results were influenced by fraud.
“No. The Virginia Department of Elections and Office of the Attorney General have reviewed the 2020 election results, along with hundreds of documents of concerns from citizens and elected officials, and have not seen any evidence of widespread fraud that would change the results of Virginia’s 2020 election,” LaCivita said.
“I’m super excited,” said State Senator Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield).
In February, shortly after Governor Glenn Youngkin and Attorney General Jason Miyares took office, Chase met with representatives of the Office of the Attorney General and pushed for $70 million to be budgeted for an audit of the 2020 election. But the administration took little public action, and in March, Youngkin seemed to snub Chase by appointing former Chase staffer Susan Beals to head the Department of Elections without consulting Chase.
Chase said the creation of the Election Integrity Unit is one of the results of that February meeting.
“Two things came out of that: first of all, an investigation, which we have not been able to talk about,” she said, and hinted at more legal action in other jurisdictions.
“The other thing that they mentioned, the second thing they mentioned when we were there, is we don’t have the resources,” Chase said.
The budget compromise passed by the Republican-controlled House of Delegates and the Democrat-controlled Senate included more funding for additional positions within the OAG.
The Virginia Star asked Senator Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax) why Democrats would have approved a budget that funds an election integrity unit.
“I do not believe he indicated this was one of his priorities in his budget request,” Surovell said. “He said he needed more lawyers because of appellate volume.”
He added, “Attorneys general get to determine their priorities, but a priority about a non-existent problem is very unusual.”
“Next up….. Attorney General creates a team of Ghost Busting Unit that will hunt for ghosts and ghouls across the Commonwealth,” Surovell tweeted Friday.
Chase Calls on Youngkin to Order Hand-Counted, Paper Ballots for November Election
In an appearance on WRVA on Wednesday, Chase called for Youngkin to issue an executive order requiring paper ballots and hand counted votes for the upcoming election.
“If France can successfully implement paper ballots and hand counts I’m confident we can too,” she said in a press release.
Chase said that shortly after the interview, she told Youngkin aide Matt Moran about the call. Youngkin hasn’t taken any public action on the matter.
Chase suggested that Youngkin and Miyares are taking different approaches to elections integrity, although she said Youngkin does support legislation like reinstating a photo identification requirement and getting rid of ballot drop boxes.
“I do appreciate when the governor does meet with me,” she said. “The governor does not feel that the  election was stolen, but then he also hasn’t had the opportunity to see what we presented to the Office of the Attorney General.”
Chase said, “The difference between the governor’s office and the Office of the Attorney General is that Jason’s office has gone back, if you look at Michelle White, that goes back to 2020.”
“This is just the beginning, but the fact that the attorney general would actually open an entire investigative unit for election integrity is huge,” Chase said. “And I think that, honestly, Governor Youngkin is going to rely on his Office of the Attorney General to look into these claims. And I think once it gets more traction, I believe he’ll eventually get on board.”
Youngkin’s office didn’t immediately respond to a Friday afternoon request for comment.
Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and The Star News Network. This article originally appeared in The Virginia Star. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of The Republican Standard. Republished with permission.