Daily Press (Sunday)

Virginia region shorted Biden in 2020 election

Senate, House tallies also off in Prince William County

- By Matthew Barakat

MANASSAS — A northern Virginia county acknowledg­ed that it underrepor­ted President Joe Biden’s margin of victory over Donald Trump in the 2020 presidenti­al election by about 4,000 votes, the first detailed accounting of errors that came to light in 2022 as part of a criminal case.

The admission last week from the Prince William County Office of Elections comes a week after prosecutor­s from the Virginia Attorney General’s office dropped charges against the county’s former registrar, Michele White.

Counts were also off in races for the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representa­tives, though by lesser margins.

The county’s current registrar, Eric Olsen, emphasized in a statement the mistakes did not come close to affecting the outcome of any race and “did not consistent­ly favor one party or candidate but were likely due to a lack of proper planning, a difficult election environmen­t, and human error.”

In the presidenti­al race, the county mistakenly shorted Biden by 1,648 votes, and overreport­ed Trump’s count by 2,327 votes. The 3,975-vote error in the margin of victory was immaterial in a contest that Biden won by 450,000 votes in Virginia and by more than 60,000 in Prince William County.

In the U.S. Senate race, Democrat Mark Warner was shorted by 1,589 votes and Republican Daniel Gade was shorted by 107. Warner won statewide by more than 500,000 votes.

And in a U.S. House race,

Republican Rob Wittman was shorted by 293 votes. He won by more than 80,000.

The details released were the first extensive response about the errors since White was initially charged in 2022 with corrupt conduct, making a false statement and neglect of duty. Prosecutor­s from the office of Republican Attorney General Jason Miyares dropped the charges against White with little explanatio­n, and court records lacked details on the alleged misconduct.

Only on Thursday did it even become public which candidates benefitted from

the mistakes. Olsen said he was restricted from being more forthcomin­g while the criminal case was litigated.

Olsen said the majority of errors occurred in so-called “split precincts,” in which one precinct is home to two different congressio­nal districts. The county’s voting system did not split the presidenti­al vote by congressio­nal district. The state system required them to be split that way. The errors occurred trying to conform the county data with the state requiremen­ts, he said.

The case against White is the only criminal prosecutio­n brought thus far by a special Election Integrity Unit that Miyares formed in 2022.

Miyares’ office said the unit was created in part to fulfill a campaign promise “because Virginians expressed concerns to him about our elections

as he traveled across the Commonweal­th.” Critics, including the NAACP, said the unit was formed to pander to election deniers.

White’s attorney, Zachary Stafford, said allegation­s that White was responsibl­e for the incorrect numbers were disproven by pretrial statements from a government witness, and that prosecutor­s wisely dropped the charges.

He said the county’s Electoral Board is the one that certified the election results, and White became a scapegoat.

“The board certified incorrect results and they, and the attorney general’s office, attempted to assign blame to Ms. White for their mistakes,” Stafford said in a written statement.

Virginia’s most recent redistrict­ing has dramatical­ly reduced the number of split precincts that caused Prince William County problems in 2020.

 ?? SUSAN WALSH/AP ?? Prince William County underrepor­ted Joe Biden’s margin of victory in the 2020 presidenta­l election by about 4,000 votes.
SUSAN WALSH/AP Prince William County underrepor­ted Joe Biden’s margin of victory in the 2020 presidenta­l election by about 4,000 votes.
 ?? ?? Wittman
 ?? ?? Warner

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