Attorney General Mark R. Herring has joined 22 attorneys general in sending a letter to Congress urging immediate action to safeguard democracy. In the letter, Attorney General Herring and his colleagues ask congress to pass legislation protecting against both voter suppression and election subversion. Attorney General Herring and his colleagues also share their concerns about what may come in future elections, if action is not taken urgently.
“This past year, we saw baseless efforts to overturn the 2020 election and anti-democratic attempts to suppress voters across the country,” said Attorney General Herring. “My colleagues and I worked hard to ensure that our voters’ rights were protected, and the election was conducted fairly and freely in our respective states. It’s time for Congress to act at the federal level to stop disenfranchisement and protect our elections in order to prevent similar situations in the future. This country was founded on democratic principles, and we must ensure that those remain intact, no matter who is in office.”
In the letter, Attorney General Herring and his colleagues describe how their offices worked to ensure that the 2020 general election was conducted freely, fairly, and with integrity. They add that several factors contributed to the failure of former President Trump and his allies to overturn a democratic outcome, saying, “The legal arguments made by those seeking to overturn election results were generally so extraordinarily weak that they did not even have the veneer of legitimacy. Certain election officials – both Republican and Democratic – refused to buckle under pressure at critical points, placing election integrity and our democracy, ahead of partisanship. And the attack on the outcome of the 2020 presidential election, while dangerous, was inept.”
Without new federal legislation strengthening protections for voting rights and preventing election subversion, Attorney General Herring and his colleagues are concerned that the nation cannot confidently rely on the incompetence of subverters to protect the will of the voters in future elections.
Several states have passed laws that create new barriers to voting or make it easier to overturn election results. In a statement issued on June 1 of this year, more than 100 democracy scholars explain, “[W]e have watched with deep concern as Republican-led state legislatures across the country have in recent months proposed or implemented what we consider radical changes to core electoral procedures in response to unproven and intentionally destructive allegations of a stolen election.” They observe that “[s]tatutory changes in large key electoral battleground states are dangerously politicizing the process of electoral administration” and “seeking to restrict access to the ballot.” And they warn, “[T]hese laws politicizing the administration and certification of elections could enable some state legislators or partisan election officials to do what they failed to do in 2020: reverse the outcome of a free and fair election.”
In their letter, Attorney General Herring and his colleagues say, “The truths upon which this nation was founded are self-evident. They are not self-executing, however. The profound challenges confronting our democracy demand that Congress act to prevent voter suppression and election subversion. Irrespective of one’s views on the value of the filibuster in general, it must not be allowed to stop Congress from addressing these issues so fundamental to our Constitution and our democracy.”
Attorney General Herring made it a top priority last year to protect voting rights and protect Virginia voters from illegal harassment or intimidation at the polls. Because of all the work that Attorney General Herring and his team did in preparation for Election Day, including making it clear that absolutely no voter intimidation would be tolerated in Virginia and preparing and planning for any and all outcomes or potential legal challenges, the Commonwealth saw a remarkably smooth and uneventful Election day. In addition to the OAG attorneys who normally represent the Board of Elections and the Department of Elections, Attorney General Herring assembled a multidisciplinary team of attorneys from his Civil Litigation and Public Safety Divisions, Solicitor General’s Office, and other divisions across the OAG, who were on standby, ready to jump into action at a moment’s notice should the need have arisen. The OAG also had lawyers in every corner of the Commonwealth who were prepared to go into court to handle any potential legal challenges.
Virginia also saw historic turnout during last year’s election, especially in early and absentee voting. This increase in voter participation was really possible in part because of Attorney General Herring’s work to make voting as easy and safe as possible during this unprecedented election cycle by crafting agreements to waive the witness signature on absentee ballots, making it easier for disabled Virginians to vote safely at home, extending the voter registration deadline, and blocking the drastic operational changes at the USPS.
Last year’s election cycle brought numerous challenges that prompted Attorney General Herring and his team to develop solutions and put out guidance to make sure every Virginian had a safe, comfortable, easy voting experience, whether they chose to vote early absentee, early in person, or on Election Day.
Attorney General Herring and his team negotiated options to promote safe, secure voting for Virginians who could not or did not want to risk their health to vote in person, including:
• An agreement that waived the witness requirement for absentee ballots for Virginians who feared for their safety voting in person
• An agreement that made it easier for Virginians with disabilities to participate in the election safely at home
Attorney General Herring also successfully blocked the Trump Administration’s drastic operational changes to the U.S. Postal Service, when a federal judge granted his motion for a preliminary injunction, explicitly saying in his order that, “at the heart of DeJoy’s and the Postal Service’s actions is voter disenfranchisement.”
Additionally, Attorney General Herring put a lot of emphasis on ensuring that Virginians felt comfortable and protected at polling places across the Commonwealth by:
• Issuing an advisory opinion outlining the protections in both state and federal law against voter intimidation and harassment in response to some reports of potential voter intimidation at a polling place in Fairfax, the day after early voting began in Virginia
• Reiterating the voter intimidation protections and outlining the actual duties of poll watchers in Virginia, following President Trump’s alarming rhetoric at the first presidential debate where he urged his supports to “go into the polls and watch very carefully”
• Writing to key law enforcement and elections stakeholder organizations asking for their commitment to ensuring a safe, fair, free, and accurate election, and outlining protections in both state and federal law to prevent voter intimidation and harassment
• Producing a short training video that walks law enforcement and elections officials through his voter intimidation opinion and the various tools that they can use to address potentially unlawful conduct
Joining Attorney General Herring in sending this letter are the attorneys general from California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Delaware, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhodes Island, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin.
Governor Northam announces Virginia’s unemployment rate drops for 15 straight months, to 4.0 percent in August
On September 17, 2021, Governor Ralph Northam announced that Virginia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped to 4.0 percent in August, 3.0 percentage points below the rate from one year ago.
The labor force increased by 5,550 to 4,247,321, as the number of unemployed residents decreased by 7,678 to 168,515. The number of employed residents rose by 13,228 to 4,078,806. In August 2021, Virginia saw over-the-year job gains of 2.2 percent. Virginia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate continues to be below the national rate of 5.2 percent.
“Virginia’s economic recovery continues to outpace the nation,” said Governor Northam. “Our unemployment rate remains well below the national average and has fallen consistently every month for the past fifteen months. More people are working and businesses are continuing to flock to our Commonwealth—even with the ongoing threat of COVID-19. I’m proud of our roaring economic growth, and I look forward to seeing these trends continue.”
“This month’s declining unemployment rate is made possible through the hard work and determination of Virginia’s workers and employers, who are the true champions of economic recovery in the Commonwealth,” said Secretary of Labor Megan Healy. “While we have more work to do, we can all be proud of how far we’ve come.”
“The overall trend in the unemployment rate we see is very encouraging, as the number of jobs being added to payrolls across Virginia continues to increase,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “The trends are clear—businesses are hiring and folks are getting back to work.”
In August, private sector employment increased by 1,500 jobs to 3,208,700, and employment in the public sector gained 9,000 jobs to 704,500. Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 10,500 jobs in August. Compared to a year ago, on a seasonally adjusted basis, nine of eleven major industry divisions experienced employment gains. The largest over-the-year job gain occurred in leisure and hospitality, up 37,100 jobs or 12 percent. The next largest over-the-year job gain occurred in professional and business services, up 20,600 jobs or 2.7 percent. Trade and transportation experienced the third-largest over-the-year job gain of 16,600 jobs or 2.6 percent.
For a greater statistical breakdown, visit the Virginia Employment Commission’s website.
August shipping volumes soar: Port continues to invest in new assets
NORFOLK, VA – The Port of Virginia® in August processed more than 307,000 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) making it the busiest August on record and the port’s second most productive month in its history.
The combination of modern terminals and an experienced operating team are combining for success and ongoing efficiency, said Stephen A. Edwards, CEO and executive director of the Virginia Port Authority (VPA).
In addition, the advantage of the “Virginia model” – where the VPA is both the terminal owner and operator – is keeping the port agile and providing measurable results to ocean carriers and cargo owners that are facing congestion and delays elsewhere.
“We own the terminals and our operating company runs them and this is an important advantage because we are not beholden to multiple economic interests, especially when we need to be flexible in our operations to accommodate our customers and growing cargo volumes,” Edwards said. “The Hampton Roads Chassis Pool [HRCPII] is a great example of the advantages of being an owner-operator. We own and operate HRCPII and as a result, we can make decisions and take quick action to ensure we have an ample supply of chassis.”
The VPA has four deep-water, multi-purpose cargo terminals and two inland terminals that are run by the VPA’s private operating company, Virginia International Terminals, LLC. In addition, the VPA owns and operates HRCPII.
“Though this is a very large, diverse port complex, all of the operational decisions are made under one roof by our Chief Operations Officer, Kevin Price,” Edwards said.
“Every day the parts are communicating, working in unison, analyzing need and providing real value to our customers, cargo owners and shippers. The ability to act quickly and provide service and solutions – long- or short-term — is the advantage of The Port of Virginia.”
August’s TEU volume was up 59,675 TEUs (+24%) vs. the same month last year and up 48,202 units (+18.6%) when compared with Aug. 2018, previously the best August on record.
- To see a one-minute-45-second video of the port’s operational metrics on productivity at the berth, rail ramp and truck gates, click here.
“Our August volume would have been even stronger but there were some disruptions in the vessel schedule that are pushing some ship calls into September,” Edwards said. “We are nearing the height of peak season and do not anticipate a let-up before year’s end. Knowing that, we are focusing on remaining agile and fluid in our operations and continuing to invest in new assets that will increase our efficiency.”
In late August, the port ordered 18 Kalmar Hybrid Shuttle Carriers; the units are set for delivery next June to Norfolk International Terminals  and Virginia International Gateway . In addition, 100 Thermo King gensets were delivered to HRCPII. These units mount directly on the chassis and 80 of the matching chassis are scheduled for delivery to HRCPII in October.
August Cargo Snapshot (2021 vs. 2020)
- Total TEUs – 307,023 up 24.1%
- Loaded Export TEUs – 85,256 up 13.2%
- Loaded Import TEUs – 144,226, up 19.3%
- Total Containers – 172,094, up 26.4%
- Virginia Inland Port Containers – 2,794, down 3.2%
- Total Rail Containers – 57,839 up 32.9%
- Total Truck Containers – 106,458 up 23%
- Total Barge Containers – 7,797 up 28.3%
(The Virginia Port Authority (VPA) is a political subdivision of the Commonwealth of Virginia. The VPA owns and, through its private operating subsidiary Virginia International Terminals, LLC (VIT), operates four general cargo facilities: Norfolk International Terminals, Portsmouth Marine Terminal, Newport News Marine Terminal and the Virginia Inland Port in Warren County. The VPA leases Virginia International Gateway and Richmond Marine Terminal. A recent economic impact study from The College of William and Mary shows that The Port of Virginia helps to create more than 400,000 jobs, generates $92 billion in total economic impact throughout the Commonwealth on an annual basis and is a significant contributing factor in Virginia being ranked “Best State for Business” in 2019, 2020 and 2021 by CNBC.)
Herring files amicus brief supporting the DOJ’s challenge to Texas’ unconstitutional law banning abortions after six weeks
RICHMOND (September 15, 2021) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring today joined a coalition of 24 attorneys general in filing an amicus brief in support of the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) challenge to Texas’ new unconstitutional six-week ban on abortions. Attorney General Herring’s brief specifically supports DOJ’s motion for a preliminary injunction of the law, that went into effect earlier this month.
Last week, Attorney General Herring led a coalition of 21 attorneys general in filing a similar amicus brief in Planned Parenthood South Atlantic v. Wilson, arguing that South Carolina’s six-week abortion ban harms women’s healthcare and a lower court’s ruling blocking the law should be upheld.
“The Texas abortion ban is not only unconstitutional, it’s just plain wrong. This law was explicitly written to try and circumvent any kind of judicial review, but my colleagues and I will not let that happen – S.B. 8 will see its day in court,” said Attorney General Herring. “A woman’s constitutional right to choose what she does with her own body is under attack across this country. As long as I am attorney general, I will do everything in my power to fight back against this alarming wave of abortion restrictions and protect a person’s constitutional right to an abortion.”
Attorney General Herring’s brief, filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, argues that by banning all pre-viability abortions within Texas’ borders, the law, Senate Bill 8 (S.B. 8), violates nearly 50 years of Supreme Court precedent affirming the constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy before viability. The brief further contends that the Texas legislature sought to circumvent prior Supreme Court rulings and prevent judicial review of the law by delegating enforcement authority to private individuals instead of the government and, as such, S.B. 8 is an “unprecedented attack on our constitutional order” and the rule of law.
Attorney General Herring and his colleagues contend that the clear purpose of S.B. 8’s private enforcement scheme is to produce an “across-the-board ban on constitutionally protected activity,” and that the private enforcement mechanism does not shield Texas’ unconstitutional law from judicial review. The brief describes how Texas created a structure within its state court system that requires courts to provide monetary and injunctive relief to claimants who bring cases against doctors who provide abortions and those who “aid and abet” such constitutionally protected care. Attorney General Herring and his colleagues argue that the federal district court should not allow Texas to render the constitutionally protected rights recognized in Roe v. Wade legally void through the law’s transparent scheme.
Attorney General Herring’s brief describes how the law is already significantly impacting abortion provider clinics in Texas and beyond, including in amici states. Clinics in nearby states are already reporting a rise in calls from Texas patients seeking abortions, and one day after the law went into effect, all abortion clinics in New Mexico were reportedly booked for weeks. This rise in abortion caseloads in other states from Texas patients and the increase in needed travel for patients could result in many people – especially low-income individuals – being unable to receive the care they need. The law also threatens the many people who help patients in Texas obtain access to abortion by creating more than $10,000 potential liability for anyone who so much as gives a patient a ride to an abortion provider or otherwise “aids or abets” an abortion. The amici state, the brief explains, are committed to shielding their residents and clinicians from these harms when they help a patient in Texas obtain constitutionally protected care.
Finally, Attorney General Herring and the coalition argue that it is essential for the federal district court to grant a preliminary injunction of the law to stop the irreparable harm that S.B. 8 is inflicting on people in Texas and across the country, including the amici states. Forcing a patient to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term, the brief argues, will lead to negative health and socioeconomic consequences, including placing people who are forced to carry a pregnancy to term at greater risk of life-threatening illnesses and harming their ability to maintain full-time employment.
Attorney General Herring has been a strong advocate for women’s healthcare and reproductive rights in Virginia. Last week, Attorney General Herring led a coalition of 21 attorneys general in filing an amicus brief in Planned Parenthood South Atlantic v. Wilson, arguing that South Carolina’s six-week abortion ban harms women’s healthcare and a lower court’s ruling blocking the law should be upheld. He has stood against attacks on women’s reproductive freedom and has fought in court to defend women’s access to comprehensive healthcare services, including abortion and birth control. He issued an official advisory opinion that helped protect women’s health clinics from expensive and medically unnecessary retrofits that would have closed many Virginia clinics that offer abortion services. Attorney General Herring successfully fought alongside his colleagues in the Whole Women’s Health case to strike down Texas’s onerous, medically unnecessary regulations, and he has fought for women’s reproductive justice around the country, working with colleagues to oppose medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion in Ohio and Alabama. Additionally, he continuously fought against the Trump Administration’s attacks on women’s access to the full range of reproductive health care services and contraception options.
Joining Attorney General Herring in filing today’s amicus brief are the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin.
Governor Northam and the First Lady Announce 2021 Women in Innovation Conference
Governor Ralph Northam announced on September 15, 2021, the Commonwealth’s second annual Women in Innovation conference will be held on September 22. It is presented by the Secretary of Administration in collaboration with the Virginia Information Technology Agency Innovation Program. This year’s conference is an opportunity to uplift women innovators and celebrate the groundbreaking women who paved the way.
“Virginia is a state that celebrates diversity,” said Governor Northam. “I am proud that our administration has more women in executive leadership roles than any previous Governor’s office. We need more women in leadership in our government and the private sector, and this is an opportunity for groundbreaking women leaders to speak about their experiences, and inspire the next generation.”
The conference is an opportunity for women across the Commonwealth, and nation, to come together, share their experiences, and influence the next generation of women leaders. This year’s event will include discussions from women who have excelled in their field, ranging from leaders in broadcast journalism to athletes who accomplished extraordinary feats.
“As a daughter, mother, First Lady, and educator, developing the talent of the next generation’s leaders is vital to Virginia’s success,” said First Lady Pamela Northam. “I’m excited to share my story, and I hope that it can inspire everyone participating in the Women in Innovation conference.”
“Being a leader and the Secretary of Administration, it is my privilege to be a mentor to my coworkers and employees,” said Secretary of Administration Grindly Johnson. “The Women in Innovation conference is a chance for leaders in their respective fields to display their accomplishments and participate in future collaboration.”
This year’s Women in Innovation conference is a free, virtual event for anyone who would like to attend. Visit the website to register. The conference is on September 22 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. EST. The Women in Innovation conference is a production of the Virginia Information Technologies Agency Innovation Program, led by Chief Information Officer Nelson Moe. The Women in Innovation planning team is thankful for your support of such an impactful event. For more information, email email@example.com.
Governor Northam encourages Virginians to celebrate Hispanic and Latino Heritage Month
RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today proclaimed September 15 to October 15 as Hispanic and Latino Heritage Month.
“As we mark 53 years of commemorating National Hispanic and Latino Heritage Month, Pam and I encourage all Virginians to join us in celebrating the important history and enduring contributions of the Hispanic and Latino community throughout Virginia and our country. They enrich our communities by sharing their vibrant culture and heritage.
“Throughout this month, we honor and celebrate the hard work and dedication of our Hispanic and Latino men and women who have contributed greatly to the success of our Commonwealth. Hispanic and Latino Virginians continue to make great strides in public office and civil rights issues, supporting the fight for justice and equality for all, and successfully advocating for the historic passage of language access and of protections for all immigrants regardless of citizenship status.
“We acknowledge their deep-rooted history and foundation in our country and in our Commonwealth. We highlight their leadership in business and education, and their service in the fight against COVID-19 as healthcare and frontline workers. We recognize the dedication of our public servants as teachers and government employees. We commend the service of Hispanic and Latino men and women in the military protecting our democracy and freedom.
“The stories of Hispanic and Latino people are woven into the fabric of our communities. I invite all Virginians to participate in virtual and other safe celebrations of Hispanic and Latino heritage taking place in communities around the Commonwealth. Hispanic and Latino history is Virginia’s history.”
Task Force on culturally inclusive school meals and calendars shares report with Governor Northam
On September 9, 2021, Governor Ralph Northam received the final report of the Task Force on Culturally Inclusive School Meals and Calendars after sharing a meal with task force members, educators, and students at Beville Middle School. The full report is available here.
• Helping schools understand the religious and cultural needs of their students, assess their cultural inclusivity practices, and identify opportunities for growth;
• Creating culturally inclusive food pantries in partnership with local and faith-based organizations; and
• Recognizing schools that implement innovative and inclusive school meal and calendar practices
“When schools acknowledge and celebrate diverse cultures, customs, and cuisines, it strengthens the sense of belonging in school communities,” said Governor Ralph Northam. “I am pleased with the task force’s work to identify ways to support healthy, compassionate learning environments for students.”
The task force was charged with identifying best practices equipping schools to adopt culturally and religiously inclusive calendars and serve meals that accommodate more dietary restrictions.
The task force recommends that schools seek public input, to ensure the religions and cultures of students are represented on academic calendars. Under these recommendations, schools will not require the recognition of all significant dates on the calendar, nor eliminate holidays currently recognized, but will encourage schools and institutions of higher education to provide opportunities for students to celebrate the cultural and religious days that are significant to their tradition.
“School divisions and higher education institutions have the opportunity to be more inclusive in the meals they serve and holidays they recognize to honor the diversity of Virginia’s students and educators,” said Secretary of Education Atif Qarni. “The task force has outlined recommendations to promote expanded meal offerings and recognize religious and cultural holidays that bear significant importance to many students in our classrooms, even if they may not currently be acknowledged on school calendars.”
Members of the task force included:
• Farah Ahmad of Gainesville, Community Service, Interfaith, and Government Relations Assistant, McLean Islamic Center
• Sandra C. Curwood of Richmond City, State Director, Office of School Nutrition Programs, Virginia Department of Education
• Megan Day of Catlett, Student and Virginia Future Farmers of America State President
• Hurunnessa Fariad of Sterling, Head of Outreach, The All Dulles Muslim Society (ADAMS Center)
• Lindsey Fox of Blacksburg, Interim District Director, VA PTA’s Parkway District
• Nina Ha of Blacksburg, Director, Asian Cultural Engagement Center at Virginia Tech
• Heidi Hertz of Richmond City, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry
• Qiu Jin of Virginia Beach, Director of the Institute of Asian Studies and Associate Professor of History, Old Dominion University
• Monica Manns of Richmond City, Chief Equity, Diversity Officer, Henrico County Public Schools
• Karishma Merchant of Alexandria, Senior Education and Workforce Policy Advisor, Office of U.S. Senator Tim Kaine
• Sarah Moran of King George, Registered Dietitian, The Dr. Yum Project
• Vijay Ramnarain of Chesterfield, Director of Support Services, Department of Education
• Adam Russo of Manassas, Director of the Office of School Food and Nutrition Services, Prince William County Public Schools
• Lyons Sanchezconcha of Richmond City, Educator, Richmond Public Schools
• Rabbi Abbi Sharofsky of Silver Spring, Maryland, Director of Intergroup Relations and Rabbi in Residence, Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington
• Beth Teigen of Powhatan, Chief of Staff to the Superintendent, Henrico County Public Schools
• Jonathan C. Zur of Richmond City, President and CEO, Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities
“All students, educators, and families should feel a sense of belonging in their schools and institutions of higher education,” said task force member Rabbi Abbi Sharofsky. “Religious and ethnic minorities often feel isolated when choosing how to observe a holiday that falls on a school day, especially if the school does not acknowledge the observances important to their traditions. By proactively and intentionally creating an inclusive academic calendar, PK-12 schools and higher education institutions can foster belonging and equity for all students, and allow students to more fully lean into their religious and cultural identities.”
Later this fall, the task force will present their recommendations to the Governor’s Children’s Cabinet and will share their recommendations with superintendents, school nutrition directors, higher education representatives, school board members, and other relevant stakeholders.