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.
Celebrate smart, safe & sober this July 4th holiday weekend
Independence Day traditions include backyard barbecues, festivals, family gatherings, and fireworks. To keep all those living, working, visiting, and traveling through Virginia safe during the extended holiday weekend, the Virginia State Police is encouraging Virginians to play it smart and plan ahead to ensure everyone on the road is safe and sober.
“Summer days are filled with celebrations, vacations, outdoor festivals, and backyard cookouts, but no matter where your plans take you, please make safety your priority,” said Colonel Gary T. Settle, Virginia State Police Superintendent. “With fatal traffic crashes on pace this year to mimic last year’s record number, I urge all Virginians to buckle up, eliminate distractions and never drive buzzed, drunk, or under the influence. Together we can make this Independence Day the safest on record!”
If planning to drink alcohol at a July 4 function, plan ahead and arrange a designated driver, use a rideshare service or taxi, or utilize public transportation to be certain you get home safely. Party hosts are encouraged to serve non-alcoholic beverage options, and to help prevent any guests from drinking and driving home from their event.
As part of its ongoing efforts to increase safety and reduce traffic fatalities on Virginia’s highways during the coming holiday weekend, Virginia State Police will increase patrols from 12:01 am Friday (July 1, 2022) through midnight Monday (July 4, 2022) as part of the Operation Crash Awareness Reduction Effort (C.A.R.E.). Operation C.A.R.E. is a state-sponsored, national program intended to reduce crashes, fatalities, and injuries due to impaired driving, speed, and failing to wear a seat belt.
During last year’s four-day Independence Day Operation C.A.R.E initiative, there were 12 traffic deaths on Virginia highways. Virginia troopers arrested 61 drivers operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs, cited 4,025 speeders and 1,434 reckless drivers, and issued 510 citations to individuals for failing to obey the law and buckle up. Troopers also assisted 1,550 disabled/stranded motorists.
With increased holiday patrols, Virginia State Police also reminds drivers of Virginia’s “Move Over” law, which requires motorists to move over when approaching an emergency vehicle stopped alongside the road. If unable to move over, then drivers are required to cautiously pass the emergency vehicle. The law also applies to workers in vehicles equipped with amber lights.
DMV reminds Virginians to make a plan before celebrating this Fourth of July
The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) reminds Virginians to celebrate responsibly and designate a sober driver before the Fourth of July festivities begin.
Last year, during the Fourth of July holiday period (July 2-July 5, 2021) there were 105 crashes, 56 injuries, and two deaths related to alcohol on the Commonwealth’s roads.
“Preventing an alcohol-related tragedy is simple – do not drive after drinking any alcohol, period,” said Acting DMV Commissioner Linda Ford, the Governor’s Highway Safety Representative. “Even one drink can impair judgment on the road. And if your holiday celebrations involve alcohol, be sure to designate a sober driver before the party begins to ensure a safe ride home.”
Celebrate this Fourth of July weekend responsibly:
- If you are planning to drink at an event, plan a safe ride home before even arriving.
- If someone you know has been drinking, do not let that person get behind the wheel.
- If you do decide to drink, do not drive for any reason. Arrange a ride from a sober friend, a taxi, or a ride-sharing service.
- If you are serving alcohol at your party, make sure all guests leave with a sober driver.
- Everyone in the vehicle should be wearing a seat belt – it’s your best defense against impaired drivers.
- Slow down and if you see an impaired driver on the road, contact law enforcement – your actions could save a life.
Virginia’s annual crime analysis report now available on Virginia State Police website
Virginia’s official and only comprehensive report on local and statewide crime figures for 2021, titled Crime in Virginia, is now available online at the Virginia State Police website on the VSP CJIS Data Analysis & Reporting Team page. Crime in Virginia continues to provide precise rates and occurrences of crimes committed in towns, cities and counties across the Commonwealth. The report breaks down criminal offenses and arrests by reporting agency.
Violent crime includes the offenses of murder, forcible sex offenses (rape, sodomy and sexual assault with an object per the FBI’s updated rape definition), robbery and aggravated assault. Overall, the violent crime rate increased in 2021 to 194.4 (per 100,000 population) from 183.0 in 2020. There were 16,823 violent crime offenses reported in 2021 compared to 15,713 violent crime offenses reported in 2020, representing a 7.1% increase.
The following 2021 crime figures in Virginia are presented in the report:
- The number of reported homicides increased from 528 to 562 (6.4%). The murder/non-negligent manslaughter rate increased from 6.15 in 2020 to 6.49 in 2021 (per 100,000 population). Victims and offenders tended to be younger males; 38.6% of homicide victims were men between 18 and 34 and 55.7% of known offenders were men between 18 and 34. Nearly half (47.5%) of all homicides occurred at a residence/home.
- Motor vehicle thefts and attempted thefts increased 3.8% compared to 2020. During 2021, there were 11,638 motor vehicles reported stolen in 11,249 offenses. In 2021, 7,589 motor vehicles were recovered (vehicles may have been stolen prior to 2021). Of all motor vehicles stolen, 35.4% were taken from the residence/home. The reported value of all motor vehicles stolen was $131,738,135.
- Drug arrests decreased by nearly half (46.7%) with the largest percentage decrease in arrestees under age 25 (67.6%). The number of reports of drugs seized decreased for nearly all drug types, especially marijuana (67%), due in part to decriminalization of possessing less than 1 ounce of the drug effective July 1, 2020 and Code of Virginia §18.2-250.1 being repealed July 1, 2021.
- Burglary decreased by 8.3% between 2020 and 2021. In fact, burglaries and attempted burglaries have steadily declined over the past ten years. In 2021, there were 10,464 burglaries and attempted burglaries whereas in 2011 there were 27,872, representing a decreased burglary rate in the last decade from 344.24 to 120.89 per 100,000 population.
- Fraud offenses increased 8.4% compared to 2020. Nearly 80% of victims (79.9%) were individuals while 11.3% were businesses. Nearly a quarter (23.2%) of fraud victims were over the age 65.
- Of the known weapons reported for violent crimes, firearms were used in 82.1% of homicides and 48.6% of robberies. Firearms were used in more than one-third (38.7%) of aggravated assault cases.
- There were 123 hate crime offenses, involving 106 victims, reported in 2021. This represents a 35.3% decrease compared to 2020. Most hate crimes (69.8%) were racially or ethnically motivated. Bias toward sexual orientation and religion were next highest (19.0%, 8.7%, respectively). Of all reported bias motivated crimes, 75.6% were assault offenses (aggravated assault, simple assault) or destruction/damage/vandalism of property.
The report employs an Incident Based Reporting (IBR) method for calculating offenses, thus allowing for greater accuracy. IBR divides crimes into two categories: Group A for serious offenses including violent crimes (murder, forcible sex offenses, robbery and aggravated assault), property crimes and drug offenses, and Group B for what are considered less serious offenses such as trespassing, disorderly conduct, and liquor law violations where an arrest has occurred.
Per state mandate, the Department of Virginia State Police serves as the primary collector of crime data from participating Virginia state and local police departments and sheriff’s offices. The data are collected by the Virginia State Police Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division via a secured internet system. This information is then compiled into Crime in Virginia, an annual report for use by law enforcement, elected officials, media and the general public. These data become the official crime statistics for the Commonwealth and are sent to the FBI for incorporation into their annual report, Crime in the United States.
Statement of the Lieutenant Governor Earle-Sears – Dobbs v. Jackson Decision
The Lieutenant Governor supports the Governor’s actions to ensure the safety of the Supreme Court justices and their loved ones. “We support the First Amendment and the right to protest peacefully but not at the expense of the safety of others. We are a civilized society. The baby in the womb wants to live. We ask for God’s protection for our commonwealth and our country”, stated Winsome Earle-Sears in the decision for Dobbs v. Jackson.
Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization argued this term before the Supreme Court, will determine the constitutionality of a state’s right to make laws allowing or prohibiting abortion. This case was heard in reference to legislation passed by the state of Mississippi: the Gestational Age Act (HB 1510), prohibiting most abortions at 15 weeks of pregnancy.
“Today, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Dobbs, giving power back to the states to make decisions on abortion. The court has recognized that the 1973 decision was an example of judicial and federal overreach. The important question of abortion has now been returned to statehouses across the country, in order for them to make their own policy decisions- which is exactly what the founding fathers envision when they wrote the 10th amendment to the Constitution. I applaud the Court for recognizing this wrong and having the courage to correct it. I look forward to working with the Governor and the General Assembly in the next legislative session on legislation that respects life,” the Lieutenant Governor added.
“The 10th Amendment to the Constitution says, ‘The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.’ This ruling supports this amendment.”
Governor Glenn Youngkin statement on Supreme Court’s Dobbs Ruling announcement
RICHMOND, VA – Governor Glenn Youngkin released the following statement today on the Supreme Court’s Dobbs ruling announcement:
“The Supreme Court of the United States has rightfully returned power to the people and their elected representatives in the states. I’m proud to be a pro-life Governor and plan to take every action I can to protect life. The truth is, Virginians want fewer abortions, not more abortions. We can build a bipartisan consensus on protecting the life of unborn children, especially when they begin to feel pain in the womb, and importantly supporting mothers and families who choose life. That’s why I’ve asked Senator Siobhan Dunnavant, Senator Steve Newman, Delegate Kathy Byron and Delegate Margaret Ransone to join us in an effort to bring together legislators and advocates from across the Commonwealth on this issue to find areas where we can agree and chart the most successful path forward. I’ve asked them to do the important work needed and be prepared to introduce legislation when the General Assembly returns in January,” said Governor Glenn Youngkin.
Attorney General Miyares argues Congress to take action to protect children on THC look-alike products
Attorney General Jason Miyares submitted a bipartisan letter to Congress, joined by 21 other attorneys general, urging them to take action regarding copycat tetrahydrocannabinol, commonly knowns as THC, food, and edibles. These products are designed to look like popular snack items and have increased accidental THC consumption by children.
On June 16, the FDA issued a warning that between Jan. 1 – May 31, 2022, the National Poison Control Center received 10,448 single substance exposure cases involving edible products containing THC. Of these cases 77% involved patients 19 years of age or younger.
THC is a psychoactive substance found in Cannabis plants. Widely available, and easily mistaken for name-brand snacks such as Oreo cookies, Doritos chips, Cheetos, NERDs, and more, THC copycat products often are unintentionally given to children or mistaken by children for the brand name snack products, resulting in unsuspecting children ingesting large amounts of THC.
“As THC-infused edibles become commonplace, some distributors have started advertising their products to look like popular candy and snack items. Their deceiving appearance and packaging can confuse young children who come across them and have led to an increase in accidental consumption, putting their health at risk. To address this growing issue, I’m urging Congress, with a bipartisan coalition, for a comprehensive legislative solution,” said Attorney General Miyares.
“As states across the country, including my own, take steps to legalize and regulate cannabis, rules have been put in place to protect children from unwitting consumption,” said co-lead Nevada Attorney General Ford. “However, there are those who attempt to work around these rules. Copycat products that mimic snacks and candy trademarks can entice children, leading to situations that can threaten their health and safety. We urge Congress to pass legislation granting these trademark holders the legal tools needed to hold these counterfeiters accountable.”
“Tackling the proliferation of online THC copycat edible sales and their potential harm to children requires a layered approach from all stakeholders, from law enforcement and policymakers to regulators and consumer groups, to be effective in reining in this health and safety issue. Consumer Brands welcomes the dedicated efforts of Attorney General Miyares to be a leader in bringing attention and action to this issue,” said Stacy Papadopoulous, Consumer Brand Association.
The attorneys general state that while they do not all agree on the best regulatory scheme for cannabis and THC, they all agree on one thing: copycat THC edibles pose a grave risk to the health, safety, and welfare of our children.
The attorneys general believe that Congress should immediately enact legislation authorizing trademark holders of well-known and trusted consumer packaged goods to hold accountable those malicious actors who are marketing illicit copycat THC edibles to children.
Attorneys General from Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Kentucky, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont, and Washington joined Attorney General Miyares’ letter.