A Virginia commonwealth’s attorney has warned prosecutors statewide Wednesday against prosecuting certain voter registration fraud cases, due to concerns raised by Virginia registrars.
In an email obtained by WTOP through a Freedom of Information Act request, Chuck Slemp, commonwealth’s attorney for Wise County and the City of Norton, said he has dropped prosecutions in “several cases” where it initially appeared that felons were trying to register to vote through the Department of Motor Vehicles, because he cannot be completely sure any data in the system is accurate.
“I believe that all Commonwealth’s Attorneys should be made aware of this issue because there may be a considerable risk of unfair prosecution of certain individuals statewide,” the email forwarded on Slemp’s behalf said.
WTOP first reported the concerns earlier this week. In a phone interview, Slemp called the risk of faulty convictions a prosecutor’s worst nightmare….
Slemp said he had been alerted “numerous” times by the registrar of felons attempting to register to vote by apparently lying on voter registrations submitted through the Department of Motor Vehicles, leading to charges in about 10 cases.
“While we were preparing for trial on these cases, and on the day before we were set to enter into a plea agreement on one, we discovered a huge problem,” Slemp wrote his fellow prosecutors.
The state system had apparently automatically populated answers on the printed forms in registrars’ offices, and has since been changed to prevent those answers from showing up when the forms are printed for the same transaction.
“We cannot be certain that any record in the … database is correct at this stage,” Slemp wrote.