NAACP: ‘Scant’ info in records about election integrity unit

Nov 29, 2022, 4:47 PM | Updated: 5:29 pm
FILE - Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares speaks during an inaugural celebration on Jan. 15, 2...

FILE - Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares speaks during an inaugural celebration on Jan. 15, 2022, in Richmond, Va. The Virginia NAACP said Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022, that it was "deeply disappointed" after receiving "scant" information of substance in response to a wide-ranging public records request it made with Miyares, the state's Republican attorney general, about his newly organized election integrity unit. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

(AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The Virginia NAACP said Tuesday it was “deeply disappointed” after receiving “scant” information of substance in response to a wide-ranging public records request it made with the state’s Republican attorney general about his new election integrity unit.

After expressing concerns that the unit could lend credence to election-fraud conspiracies, the civil rights group paid a deposit of more than $19,000 for a records request related to its organization, staffing, activities and other matters. It received documents from Attorney General Jason Miyares’ office in early November and released them Tuesday.

The NAACP sought 17 detailed categories of information about the unit, according to the correspondence. While the responsive documents span hundreds of pages, scores are news clippings. In 11 of the 17 categories, including a request for “all records concerning the staffing” of the unit and another for records dealing with “procedures, policies, practices” and training materials, Miyares’ office said it had no responsive documents.

The group also asked for any records identifying the number of convictions for crimes constituting “election cheating” in Virginia in each year since 2008; the attorney general’s office said it had no such records.

“This unit is plainly a paper tiger, a public relations ploy to pander to the election deniers and conspiracy theorists who are the real force undermining public confidence in our elections,” Robert Barnette Jr., president of the Virginia State Conference of the NAACP, said at a news conference.

Barnette reiterated the group’s call to disband the unit.

Victoria LaCivita, Miyares’ spokeswoman, said in an email that the NAACP was engaging in “groundless attacks that are offensive, ridiculous and without single shred of proof.” She noted that Miyares has repeatedly affirmed that there is no evidence of widespread election fraud in Virginia. She said the unit was fielding citizen complaints and handling lawsuits involving elections issues and irregularities — “exactly what it was created to do.”

“Due to the NAACP’s inappropriate and baseless attack, we continue to expect an apology on behalf of the hundreds of men and women at the Office of the Attorney General who work every day protecting the rights and freedoms of all Virginians,” she wrote.

The NAACP announced that it was pursuing the Freedom of Information Act request in October, after Miyares said in September he was forming the election integrity unit “to help restore confidence in our democratic process in the Commonwealth.”

The request pertained only to the attorney general’s office. Election-related fraud cases often are investigated and prosecuted at the local level.

Some documents included talking points, correspondence with journalists and lawmakers, and emails from the unit’s leader, Senior Assistant Attorney General Joshua Lief, to members of the public who wrote with either praise or criticism.

“I hear your concerns and I can assure you the mission of this unit is to call balls and strikes under the Code of Virginia. It is not to target one political party or group of voters,” Lief wrote in one email to a constituent.

Nearly 300 records were withheld under exemptions to the public records law, according to the attorney general’s office.

“We were deeply disappointed in the scant amount of information related to a unit that the attorney general touted as essential,” Barnette said.

The NAACP pursued the request with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the Office of the General Counsel of the NAACP and the law firm Hogan Lovells. It ultimately paid just over $9,500 for the records. The attorney general’s office provided a refund of nearly $10,000 after the review took less time than expected.

Barnette said Tuesday he believed the office charged what he characterized as exorbitant fees to try to dissuade the NAACP from its pursuit.

But LaCivita said fulfilling the request was a “massive undertaking” that required over 200 staff hours from over 20 employees and noted that the NAACP sought documents from a span of 15 years.

In an op-ed in The Washington Post in October, Miyares said the creation of the unit amounted to a restructuring of employees who were already working on election matters. He also wrote that there was no widespread fraud in Virginia or anywhere else during the 2020 election.

LaCivita said the unit had received complaints connected to this month’s elections, but she could not comment on whether any investigations had resulted.

Similar units in other states are looking into scattered complaints after the midterms but have provided no indication of systemic problems.

____

Fields reported from Washington.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, step off Air Force One, Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023, at H...
Associated Press

Ex-Twitter execs to face GOP questioning on Hunter Biden

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans are expected to question former Twitter executives about the platform’s handling of reporting on Hunter Biden, the president’s son, fulfilling a party promise to investigate what they have long asserted is anti-conservative bias at social media companies. Three former executives will be appearing Wednesday before the House Oversight and Accountability […]
4 hours ago
FILE - Designer Stella Jean accepts applause at the end of her womens Spring/Summer 2018/19 fashion...
Associated Press

Stella Jean quits Milan Fashion Week over lack of inclusion

MILAN (AP) — The only Black designer belonging to Italy’s fashion council is withdrawing from this month’s Milan Fashion Week citing a lack of commitment to diversity and inclusion, and on Wednesday announced a hunger strike out of concern that other minority designers associated with her will suffer a backlash. Stella Jean told The Associated […]
4 hours ago
President Joe Biden talks with people after the State of the Union address to a joint session of Co...
Associated Press

Biden makes Wisconsin his 1st stop after State of the Union

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden on Wednesday was headed to Wisconsin, a battleground state he won by the slimmest of margins in 2020, to press his economic message and other themes from his State of the Union address in the window before his next big speech: announcing a possible reelection bid. Biden was set […]
4 hours ago
Associated Press

International team to present update on MH17 investigation

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — An international team is presenting an update Wednesday on its investigation into the 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine. The announcement comes nearly three months after a Dutch court convicted two Russians and a Ukrainian rebel for their roles in shooting down the Boeing 777 and […]
4 hours ago
Sri Lankan president Ranil Wickremesinghe, left, arrives at the parliament to deliver his policy sp...
Associated Press

Sri Lankan leader appeals for patience amid economic crisis

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lanka’s president on Wednesday appealed for patience amid the country’s worst economic crisis but promised brighter times ahead. President Ranil Wickremesinghe said in a policy speech after inaugurating a new parliamentary session that he had been forced to make unpopular decisions to salvage the country’s finances, including by implementing […]
4 hours ago
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addresses a media conference after the EU-Ukraine summit in...
Associated Press

Zelenskyy visits UK for first time since Russia’s invasion

LONDON (AP) — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is visiting Britain on Wednesday, his first trip to the U.K. since Russia’s invasion began nearly a year ago and only his second confirmed journey outside Ukraine during the war. British media reported that Zelenskyy’s plane landed at London Stansted airport north of the U.K. capital on a […]
4 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Company looking for oldest air conditioner and wants to reward homeowner with new one

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Prep the plumbing in your home just in time for the holidays

With the holidays approaching, it's important to know when your home is in need of heating and plumbing updates before more guests start to come around.
...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet can improve everyday life

Quantum Fiber supplies unlimited data with speeds up to 940 mbps, enough to share 4K videos with coworkers 20 times faster than a cable.
NAACP: ‘Scant’ info in records about election integrity unit