U.S. attorney ready to enforce election laws

The U.S. attorney for the Western District of Virginia issued a warning Monday against possible voting-related crimes at the polls on Nov. 8.

U.S. Attorney John Fishwick Jr. said his agency will be on the alert against offenses involving fraud or discrimination. He said three assistant U.S. attorneys in his office have been assigned to oversee the handling of any complaints pertaining to violation of federal election laws.

“Every citizen must be able to vote without interference or discrimination and to have that vote counted without it being stolen because of fraud,” Fishwick said in a written statement. “The Department of Justice will act promptly and aggressively to protect the integrity of the election process.”

Fishwick cited several examples of election law violations: intimidation or bribing voters; buying and selling votes; impersonating voters; altering vote tallies; stuffing ballot boxes; and marking ballots for voters against their wishes or without their input. Fishwick said unauthorized attempts to question or challenge voters at polling places, or photographing or videotaping them in an effort to expose illegal voting may violate the law.

The assistant U.S. attorneys who will be monitoring the vote Nov. 8 and their phone numbers are: Charlene R. Day, 540-278-1475; Jennie L.M. Waering, 540-857-2905; and Ronald M. Huber, 434-296-3912.

FBI agents in each field office and resident agency throughout the nation will also be on duty to take reports of election irregularities. The local FBI office can be reached at 540-344-5561.

The voter registrars in Frederick and Shenandoah counties said Monday they had no knowledge of any investigations into voting irregularities in their jurisdictions in recent years.

“I’m unaware of any type of problems,” Lisa W. McDonald of Shenandoah County said, adding she has only been in the job for a year, but has already overseen five elections.

Rick Miller, of Frederick County, said polling places in his jurisdiction have also been free of legal problems.

“I’ve been here 11 years and there’s none that I can remember,” Miller said.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s insistence that the election is “rigged” and his refusal to rule out rejecting the results if he loses has sparked worries among government officials in both parties and political commentators about an increased risk of disruptive activities at the polls.

Confirmed cases of voter fraud – one study showed 31 cases among more than a billion votes cast since 2000 – are rare but there have been scattered investigations into accusations of fraudulent voter registration around the country, including in Harrisonsburg.

The FBI and local police have been investigating reports of 19 dead people who were re-registered to vote in Harrisonburg. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that the registrations were submitted by someone working on signing up voters living around James Madison University.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com.