Richmond Times-Dispatch

After City Council race f lips, hopeful decries election office’s transparen­cy

- BY C. SUAREZ ROJAS Richmond Times-Dispatch csuarez@timesdispa­tch.com (804) 649-6178

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.”

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