After City Council race f lips, hopeful decries election office’s transparency
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 13, 2020
A significant discrepancy in the latest results of a Richmond City Council race is again leading to allegations of poor transparency in the city’s election office.
After seeing his count lowered by about 1,000 votes in the results certified by local officials Tuesday, wiping out what appeared to be a slim lead in the race, 2nd District candidate Tavarris Spinks said Thursday that he had not received an adequate explanation for the change. He also challenged the credibility of the election office, after similar complaints from another candidate last week.
Through most of the week, prior to the certification of the results Tuesday, Spinks led Katherine Jordan by 25 votes, with about 7,000 votes tallied for each candidate, according to results posted to the state’s election website. The certified results uploaded earlier this week then showed Spinks with 5,961 votes to Jordan’s 7,195.
In a phone call late Thursday evening, Kirk Showalter told The TimesDispatch that the mistake was caused by an addition error on election night.
“The canvass did what it should,” she said, referring to the postelection vote-checking process. “It
• • • found the error and corrected it.”
Showalter said she had yet to inform Spinks of her discovery, adding that she would rely on Electoral Board Chairman Jim Nachman to reach out to his campaign.
Kelley Losier, Spinks’ campaign manager, said: “Ms. Showalter’s track record of resentment and indifference towards transparency has left the electorate with no reason to trust her word. If she is sincere about proving she is qualified to manage Richmond’s democratic process, all she needs to do is show the receipts.”
Spinks announced earlier Thursday that he would be seeking more information about how the votes were counted after the election, but would be willing to accept the results even if they prove he loses.
“It gives me no pleasure having to question the credibility of this reporting; however, due to the unusually dramatic discrepancy between the number of initially reported votes and those posted now, voters in the 2nd District deserve to know how and why this disparity occurred,” Spinks said.
“After repeated attempts to clarify these results, Ms. Showalter, the steward of Richmond’s democratic process, has continued to offer inadequate, vague and inconsistent responses.”
Showalter did not comment on Spinks’ remarks. She said she had suspected an addition error, but was unable to confirm until speaking with an election officer Thursday.
Jordan had yet to declare victory Thursday evening, but she has made statements supportive of Spinks after the certification of the results earlier this week.
“I’m frustrated for all involved that this continues to drag on,” she said in a statement Thursday. “I believe my win will hold, but Tavarris deserves transparency.”
Amy Wentz, a candidate who lost to incumbent
City Council member Reva Trammell in the 8th District, raised similar concerns about the election office last week after election officials failed to report several hundred votes from one of the district’s precincts.
Nachman, the chairman of the Electoral Board, eventually provided the corrected results to Wentz, but the candidate said she felt it was difficult to get an explanation for the error from Showalter.
In his statement Thursday, Spinks said those kinds of errors make it harder for candidates and voters to trust local election processes. “I urge Ms. Showalter and the Electoral Board to acknowledge the damage that has been done to the credibility of the registrar’s office and promptly formulate a plan to effectively rebuild the trust of the Richmond electorate,” he said.
Nachman said Thursday that the office has been struggling in recent days to certify the results of an election with an unprecedented number of mail-in votes after an outbreak of COVID-19 in the election office.
He acknowledged that mistakes were made but said the Electoral Board will not be held responsible for them. As for the registrar, who is appointed by the board, he said there will be a review of how her office handled this year’s election.
Asked whether the board would consider dismissing her, he said it’s too soon to know.
“If that extraordinary step were to be taken, we would have to make a case,” he said. “I don’t know if we’re there yet. But that is not outside the realm of possibilities.”