Senate Committee Kills Republican Election Integrity Reforms, Obenshain-Chase Conflict Resurfaces, Surovell Criticizes Miyares for Firing 30 Attorneys


RICHMOND, Virginia — The Virginia Senate Privileges and Elections Committee killed several Republican-sponsored elections integrity bills on Tuesday afternoon, including photo voter identification bills and a bill to repeal same-day voter registration. The committee also killed campaign finance reform bills from Senators Joe Morrissey (D-Richmond) and Senator Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax.)

Senators Mark Obenshain (R-Rockingham), Mark Peake (R-Lynchburg), and Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield) introduced separate voter identification bills. Obenshain told the committee that his bill would just roll back a previous Democrat repeal of voter I.D. laws.

“Over the course of this past year, of course, Americans have been asked to show proof of vaccination, even in order to be able to work. So this is simply restoring the requirement of showing the identification. WE went through an elaborate process to make sure that there was no barrier to anybody obtaining an identification through the system we put together,” he said.

Deputy Secretary for the Secretary of the Administration Aliscia Andrews spoke in favor of the bill.

“We support this bill completely. We want to make sure that every person in the Commonwealth has confidence when they go and place their vote. And to ensure that we would like to make sure they have a photo I.D. to make sure they feel that way,” Andrews said.

Chase – Obenshain Conflict Resurfaces

Obenshain and Peake agreed to have their bills rolled together, but when asked if Chase’s bill could also be rolled in, Obenshain said, “I’d just as soon let Senator Chase stand on her own.”

Obenshain is a leader in the Republican Senate Caucus; Chase does not caucus with Republicans, and both Obenshain and Peake have criticized Chase on the Senate floor.

Later, the committee, including Obenshain and Peake, decided to roll Chase’s bill in with the other photo I.D. bills.

“There was a misunderstanding,” Committee Chair Senator Creigh Deeds (D-Bath) explained.

Then, the committee voted nine to six to kill the unified bill.

The committee did advance Senator Jen Kiggans’ (R-Virginia Beach) bill requiring the State Registrar to send lists of decedents to the Department of Elections on a weekly basis, instead of a monthly basis. Kiggans said the bill passed the Senate in 2021.

“I consider [this bill] to be more of a list maintenance and accuracy bill. So we’re not so much worried about quote dead people voting but I want the most accurate list available when we do go to vote,” Kiggans said.

Some legislators were concerned because there was no spokesperson from Vital Records available to comment, but the bill also has to pass the Finance and Appropriations Committee, so the legislators agreed to hear from Vital Records then.

Surovell Criticizes Attorney General Jason Miyares for Firing Attorneys

Miyares fired thirty attorneys from the office of the attorney general, including the entire civil rights division on Friday.

Senator Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax) said on the Senate floor that jeopardized the office’s ongoing cases on behalf of Virginia citizens, and said the attorney general’s office has an obligation to continue those cases or follow formal processes for withdrawing from them.

“I appreciate that the attorney general can make lots of policy choices. He can change the way he runs that office, he can restructure it, he can put whatever label he wants on the different offices, but he can’t fire 30 people in 24 hours that are involved in legal matters. That ain’t how it works, and it gives me serious concern about how seriously that office takes its constitutional and its statutory responsibilities to represent the people of Virginia on these matters,” Surovell said.

Republican senators said that former Attorney General Mark Herring did the same thing when he took office after Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.

“Let me just say: cry me a river,” Obenshain said. “Mark Herring lost, okay? Get over it.”

“They were terminated, but the cases they were handling are still being handled by the Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Virginia. The Attorney General of the Commonwealth changes every four years, and the person occupying that office is still responsible for the handling of those cases. Nobody’s withdrawn — the attorney general has not withdrawn from those cases. Should he choose to do so, he will have to those courts and withdraw. But this is, quite frankly, exactly what happens every four years, or, in this instance, eight years.”

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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and The Star News Network.  Email tips to [email protected]
Photos by Eric Burk. Photo “Mark Obenshain” by Mark D. Obenshain. Photo “Amanda Chase” by Senator Amanda Chase. Background Photo “Virginia State Capitol” by Ron Cogswell. CC BY 2.0.

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