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Updated: Democrats Call for Ouster of Richmond Elections Chief

Woman holding envelope
Richmond General Registrar Kirk Showalter walked reporters through election procedures earlier this year. (Photo: Jakob Cordes/VPM News)

A growing chorus of state and local Democrats are calling for the resignation or removal of Richmond General Registrar Kirk Showalter. 

In a letter sent to Richmond’s electoral board Thursday morning, the Richmond City Democratic Committee and the Democratic Party of Virginia criticized Showalter’s administration of the 2020 election. They allege that on Oct. 30 Showalter admitted she had not contacted voters with errors on their absentee ballots within the three days mandated by state law. Democratic officials also criticized Showalter for mishandling a COVID-19 outbreak that resulted in more than 90 percent of her employees being forced to quarantine. They say Showalter failed to promptly notify people who may have come in contact with COVID-19 positive employees.

For all of those reasons, state and local Democratic officials say Showalter should resign or be removed from office by the electoral board.

“These repeated failures of the Registrar cannot be ignored and the City of Richmond, indeed, deserves better,” the letter concludes. 

Susan Swecker, chair of the Democratic Party of Virginia, and Jamie Nolan, who heads the Richmond City Democratic Committee, signed the letter. A similar letter was also sent from lawyers representing the state party to the electoral board.

Responding to questions from the press, Mayor Levar Stoney joined the calls for Showalter’s ouster Wednesday afternoon.

“I believe the electoral board needs to step up and remove the registrar or ask for her resignation,” Stoney said. “In the 21st century now with the way things are changing because of the pandemic, we need to ensure that our process is transparent.”

Thursday night, Showalter emailed a statement to VPM, saying she will not resign.

“I am confident that whatever the allegations are will be examined, it will be shown that the election was managed well under difficult circumstances, and that we did all in our power to comply with all the last minute changes and additional requirements,” Showalter said.

Richmond’s Electoral Board Chair Jim Nachman tells VPM that the board is taking the allegations seriously and will launch a transparent investigation. 

“I think the record needs to be clear if we’re going to take the extraordinary step to replace Ms. Showalter, so I think we need to follow a certain process and do what’s right,” he said. 

Nachman said he hopes the board can come to a decision in a few weeks. He also said he doesn’t want the great job Richmond’s poll workers did with an unprecedented number of absentee ballots to be lost in the controversy.

“We were working hard under some pretty terrible conditions,” Nachman said. “Even though some things could have been done better by the Registrar, things got done.”

Even before the letter, Showalter was being criticized for large reporting errors in the unofficial results that were released after Election Day.

In the 8th District Richmond City Council race, the unofficial results in two precincts were off by a substantial number. The final results also showed 2nd District candidate Tavarris Spinks had been incorrectly allotted more than 1,000 votes, making his race against Katherine Jordan appear much closer than it was. 

Wentz and Spinks sent a joint letter to Richmond’s Electoral Board on Thursday, repeating many of the frustrations they expressed in the days after the election and asking for a resignation.

“The General Registrar is tasked with overseeing the most consequential mechanism voters have to hold our leaders accountable,” the two said in the letter. “Ms. Showalter has demonstrated that she is neither equipped nor willing to meet the standard required of her.”

You can read the full letter from the state and local Democratic Party to the Richmond Electoral Board here.

Editor’s note: This story was updated after publication to reflect new responses from General Registrar Kirk Showalter and Electoral Board Chair Jim Nachman.