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Front Royal Unite’s statement on Warren County’s Question 3 results

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The results of Question 3 mark the beginning—not the end—of the debate on Front Royal’s Confederate statue. They do not give us a decision; rather, they tell us what we knew all along upon founding Front Royal Unites: that the time is ripe for a challenging but crucial conversation about our grim history of racial inequality.

And they remind us that what we need right now from our elected officials is for them to do their job: to serve as leaders for all of our residents, especially those most affected by this harrowing history and its devastating effects, which linger to this day. The Founding Fathers created a representative democracy, rather than a direct democracy, for a reason: for elected officials to exercise their wisdom and experience to legislate for the benefit of all citizens, even when those decisions conflict with the majority opinion; otherwise, why have elected officials like our Board of Supervisors at all? Let us note that this referendum was no consensus, and the Board has a duty not to turn its back on the almost one quarter of our citizens who are calling for change, many of whom have long been marginalized and ignored.

At this moment, it is worth reflecting that our greatest moments of progress for justice and equality came not through “nonbinding referendums,” but only after long struggles undertaken by committed groups of citizens—often in the minority—to hold their representatives accountable, from marching in the streets to testifying in Congress and, when all else failed, even litigating in the Supreme Court.

Perhaps one might call these trailblazers “troublemakers,” but we know that had Rosa Parks simply given up her bus seat that fateful day, or had Martin Luther King, Jr. wrung his hands instead of marching in the streets of Washington and sharing his Dream with the world, we might not have the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, and now sexual orientation. Had 300 people not gathered at the Seneca Falls Convention to kick off a decades-long crusade for women’s right to vote in 1848, and then persisted despite failed congressional proposals, many of us might still be relegated to the kitchen instead of heading to the ballot box with the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. And after white leaders in the women’s suffrage movement refused to incorporate Black women into their fight, had Ida B. Wells just accepted her place at the back of the nation’s first-ever women’s suffrage parade, perhaps Black women would have been left behind.

Had these historical heroes acquiesced to a simple majority vote, we’d have quietly given in to the status quo—slavery, disenfranchisement, segregation—time and time again. Without such perseverance by the few to keep the government working for all, democracy “of the people, by the people, and for the people” will fail.

We know from our own harrowing history that Warren County has left its Black citizens behind before, being one of the last localities in the entire state to desegregate during Massive Resistance. When one searches online for “Massive Resistance,” Warren County appears at the top of the Wikipedia page, forever cementing our reputation for the world. Across the country, more than 100 Confederate statues have been taken down or moved since the 2015 Charleston church massacre. In another 50 years, does Warren County want to be remembered as a champion of civil rights, or yet again as the lone holdout that refused to recognize the damage inflicted by the institution of slavery and the Civil War?

Proponents of the statue remaining in place have attempted to rewrite history to conform to their idyllic fantasies of the Confederacy. However, there is no denying the true history of the Confederate States, which waged their war against the United States for the express purpose of preserving slavery. This disturbing truth resounds in the words of Vice President of the Confederacy Alexander Stephens in his “Cornerstone” speech: “Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and moral condition.”

Like hundreds of other Confederate monuments located on public property such as town squares and courthouse lawns throughout the South, Warren County’s statue was erected by the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC). Despite its assertions that it has “stayed quietly in the background,” the UDC has a long history of promulgating the dangerous “Lost Cause” ideology that downplays slavery as the primary cause of the Civil War, leaving more than 42 percent of Americans believing this false narrative. The UDC’s disinformation campaigning played a major role in thwarting even meager protections for Black Americans during Reconstruction. In the early 1900s, the UDC continued to assert white supremacy and terrorize Black people during the Jim Crow era through the construction of Confederate statues and, dissatisfied with their success, actually put up a monument to commemorate the KKK in 1926.

Thus, despite claims to the contrary, Front Royal’s statue isn’t serving to enlighten anyone on the Confederacy’s dark history. In its more than 100 years of existence, it has only further obfuscated the reality that the Civil War was fought for the South’s quest to uphold the institution of slavery.

Further, our courthouse is our County’s seat of justice, yet the statue celebrates the so-called patriotism of the Confederacy—whose existence, by its very nature, was an act of treachery—through the lettering on its base. The statue supposedly honors veterans, yet its prominence at our courthouse insults the memory of the other veterans honored there, who fought for the United States of America while the Confederacy fought against it. Though many of the names on the statue were unlikely slave owners themselves, America’s unique outlook is one of aspiration. Countless soldiers fought for the Confederacy not because they owned slaves, but because they supported the institution of chattel slavery, hoping one day to be prosperous enough to have their own plantation that would have required slave labor.

Importantly, advocates for the statue remaining in place have failed to demonstrate that they would face real harm from its relocation to a more suitable location, such as a museum or Confederate graveyard, where they could continue to visit it as often as they desire. Rather, they have relied on the argumentum ad antiquitatem fallacy that the statue has stood at our courthouse for over 100 years and therefore should remain, which is not an argument at all, but the absence of one. Would they say the same of slavery?

The costs of the statue remaining on public land, on the other hand, are clear. Every day that it stands, it serves as a perpetual reminder to Black folks that they were once considered mere property themselves. Just recently, a Richmond circuit court even declared that efforts to stop the removal of the Robert E. Lee monument there actually conflict with our state’s current public policy, recognizing that “testimony overwhelmingly established the need of the southern citizenry to establish a monument to their ‘Lost Cause,’ and to some degree their whole way of life, including slavery.” Yet Virginia continues to spend up to 9 million in taxpayer dollars maintaining Confederate graves, including hundreds of thousands being funneled directly to the UDC. The danger of the UDC, and our government’s funding of them, are elucidated by Professor Jalane Schmidt of the University of Virginia: “They created an ideology which glorified the ‘Old South,’ and dressed this up in seemingly harmless cotillion balls and bake sales. What is harmful about them is that for generations, they vetted textbooks, which were adopted into Southern public schools. These books promoted a false Lost Cause version of history to impressionable young white students, who then grew up to enforce segregation.”

We now turn to present-day Warren County to address the false notion that racism, like slavery, is a relic of our past. Take, for example, the case of former Warren-Page NAACP President Suetta Freeman who, even after surmounting being locked out of schooling by Massive Resistance at Warren County High in 1958, went on to graduate here and embark on a career in auditing, yet had to commute for decades to Northern Virginia because she was unable to secure fair and equal employment in Front Royal. Her experience illustrates the racial inequality that is endemic nationally: on average, Black people only make 62 percent of white people’s salary. Or this year, when a truck drove past the home of a prominent member of our Black community and its driver shouted, “White power!” Or this summer, when a mixed-race child accidentally dropped a hand wipe at Applebee’s and her mother found it returned to their car with the writing, “You asked for this wipe, then left it laying (sic) right where that little peckerhead half-breed dropped it so everyone else could step on it. Though I’m sure your home is filthy and cluttered, we try to keep our town clean.” Or the people of color who visited our town for a work retreat in 2017 and awoke to an effigy of a lynching in their rental’s yard. Or the possibility that if we don’t take action to address injustice now, a name like George Floyd’s could someday be ringing from our own Blue Ridge Mountains.

Now it is time for a decision. Will the Board simply concede to the bandwagon fallacy promulgated by the statue’s defenders, or will it stand up for the marginalized and oppressed? If the latter, it must decide to relocate the Confederate monument to a more appropriate venue, and perhaps replace it with a monument that instead honors the resiliency and contribution of the slaves whose stolen labor drove economic growth in Virginia, as our neighbor Manassas has done. Front Royal Unites urges the Board to take this immediate step for a more inclusive, equitable, and just Front Royal.


Front Royal Unites is a social activist organization dedicated to making sure that regardless of one’s complexion, you aren’t feared, you feel safe, and you get an equal footing. Together we are United. Together we are Front Royal. For more information, visit FrontRoyalUnites.org.

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Abortion: Don’t tread on me—or my values

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While he may not want to talk about it, it’s no secret that Ben Cline is staunchly anti-abortion, believing that human life begins at conception and, accordingly, that a woman has no right to terminate a pregnancy. He has signed onto proposed legislation prohibiting abortions nationwide, with no exceptions for rape, incest or protecting the life or health of the mother. He has also voted against a law safeguarding the use of contraceptives like birth control pills to prevent pregnancy. I certainly can respect another’s deeply-held moral or religious beliefs, Mr. Cline being a conservative Catholic. What I do object to, however, is having him or anyone else impose those beliefs on me and oblige me to conform to them.

If a couple is unable to prevent an unwanted pregnancy, they can face catastrophic consequences, and their lives can be devastated. A child may demand a level of financial, emotional and material support completely beyond the ability of the couple to provide. The end result is that the child becomes a ward of the state, and we all pay the costs through our tax dollars. While talking about these effects of an unwanted or unplanned child may seem heartless or cruel, they are undeniably real.

I just cannot accept that Mr. Cline or anybody else feels that he can have control over a very private decision that belongs to me and my wife. I’m sorry, but in matters of ending a pregnancy or using birth control pills, the woman gets to decide what to do–naturally in consultation with her partner, in the privacy of their bedroom and consistent with her own moral and religious beliefs. Mr. Cline and the government have no business getting involved–at all. Since he apparently believes otherwise, I do not plan to vote for him in November.

D.J. Murphy
Fishersville, VA

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Dr. Petrolove or: How I learned to stop worrying and love fossil fuels

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We always knew it would come to this.

That it would start … out there. Out on the Left Coast where all the loonies live: California, the land of surfboards and wildfires; of Google, Apple and Microsoft; of swimming pools and movie stars. And godless liberals.

That’s the sort of place where wild-eyed, un-American ideas get seeded by some radical who dares to think beyond this decade and where it would take root and, before you knew it, creep across the purple mountain majesties and the fruited plain like kudzu.

Sure ’nuff, it happened: a sneak attack. OK … a sneak attack with 13 years’ notice, but that’s no time at all when you’re talking about ending the sale of new gasoline-powered cars.

Youngkin’s my name. Glenn Youngkin. I command this conservative outpost called Virginia, and if those granola-munching, tree-hugging, Birkenstock-wearing lefties are spoiling to go toe-to-toe over our precious petroleum fluids, well … hold my Chardonnay.

A slick-haired, tan-from-a-can dandy named Gavin Newsom, my counterpart in California started this dust-up. And I aim to finish it. It was his doing and that of the lefty legislature out in the so-called Golden State that flat-out dictated that come 2035, there would be no more brand-new cars sold that rely on internal combustion of petroleum distillates for locomotion. If you buy it new off a dealer’s lot or order it online factory-fresh, it’ll run off hydrogen fuel like some spaceship or you’ll have to plug it in like some lowly vacuum cleaner or washing machine.

That’s pretty rich, ain’t it? A state that barely a week ago was warning of rolling blackouts on account of a freak heat wave draining its power grid is going to force folks to buy cars that run off the very electricity that they already can’t make enough of.

Not that it’s any skin off ol’ Glenn’s hind parts if Californians won’t have the privilege of paying upwards of seven frogskins a gallon for regular gas – nearly nine bucks for high-test – as they did several weeks ago. What slaps my chaps is that what Newsom did means I’d have to do the same thing across the country here in god-fearin’, carbon-lovin’ Virginia, too.

Like hell I will.

The Biden administration’s goal to have half of all U.S. vehicles be electric by 2030, will require increased production of minerals such as lithium, nickel and cobalt used in batteries. (Sarah Vogelsong/Virginia Mercury)

I’m pulling Virginia out of this Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and I’m asking the General Assembly to repeal this perfidious state law the Democrats passed in 2021 that requires us to follow California’s lead on emissions policy. Seventeen other states are part of this same devil’s deal, but I can only strike a blow for the good of our fossil fuels here in Virginia (unless I strike it lucky in the 2024 presidential primaries, but that’s another tale).

Here comes Lionel Mandrake, my somewhat uptight, British-born environmental policy wonk, walking into my office. Right on time.

“Mandrake, have a seat,” I said, motioning to the chair opposite my desk.

“Good evening, sir. Do I understand correctly that we’re threatening to leave the multi-state vehicle emissions compact and that you’ve placed the House of Delegates on Condition Red?” Mandrake said. “Good idea. Keep the lads on their toes.”

“I’m afraid this isn’t a drill, Mandrake,” I replied.

“Oh dear. Is California involved?”

“Looks like it. Could get pretty hairy.”

I took a sip of my preferred cocktail, an oaky Pinot Grigio and rainwater. “Mandrake, I can no longer sit back and allow leftist infiltration, leftist indoctrination, leftist subversion and the international leftist conspiracy to sap and impurify our precious petrochemical fluids!”

“But sir, might we be acting a bit … rashly? I mean, the whole bloody point will likely be moot by 2035 whether we act or not. The mass conversion to electric vehicles is well under way. Detroit and the world’s other automakers are retooling and switching entire model lines pell-mell from internal combustion engines to electric motors. Why, there’s even a new start-up right here in Virginia that’s in business converting big-rig tractors from diesel engines to electrical. Our own transportation department just announced plans for a major expansion of electrical charging stations along interstates across Virginia. And our friends at Dominion are ever so keen on the idea of vehicles that use electricity,” Mandrake said.

“Friends? Dominion?” I said, giving Mandrake the stink-eye.

“Dreadfully sorry. Habit from the not-too-distant past,” he said.

“Mandrake, do you realize that EV dominance is the most monstrously conceived, leftist/environmentalist plot we’ve ever faced?”

“Nevertheless, sir, carmakers are going where the money and incentives are, and if a market the size of Cali goes EV, so shall they. Were California, its own country, it would be the world’s fifth-largest economy ,right behind Germany and just ahead of the United Kingdom — God save the king. California’s almost $3 trillion annual GDP accounts for nearly 15% of the entire American economy,” he continued in a pleading tone.

“And sir,” Mandrake continued, “General Motors has already announced it will bring 30 new EV models to market in just the next three years and manufacture EVs exclusively by 2035. Ford has invested $22 billion into electric vehicles, and 40% of all that it produces will be all-electric by 2030. Besides, sir, this shan’t affect the sale of pre-owned petrol-powered cars by one tuppence.”

“Sit down and chill, Mandrake. I’ve already gotten the ball rolling with Todd Gilbert and our boys in the House. There’s no stopping it now,” I said.

“I beg of you, Glenn – politics aside — have you considered the climatological implications? It brings us incrementally closer to … the Doomsday Machine,” he said ominously. “It’s getting worse every year, sir: triple-digit temperatures in Portland, Oregon, and even Scotland, for goodness sake; a full-blown hurricane now forecast to blast the Canadian coast near Newfoundland; estuaries and reservoirs drying up in the American Southwest; hundred-year floods happening every year.”

“The libs have been using that global warming hooey to try to scare the bejeebers out of us for decades now. Every study the petroleum industry pays for proves the same thing: science can’t be trusted,” I replied.

“But you don’t have to believe me, Mandrake,” I continued, buzzing my receptionist. “Can you send in Dr. Petrolove?”

Petrolove sir?” Mandrake asked. “Wasn’t he …”

“Yeah. I put him on retainer after he made parole for his part in that Enron nastiness back in the 2000s. Knows every dirty secret in the oil and gas biz and some they haven’t even thought up yet. If your ‘Doomsday Machine’ exists, Petro will know about it.”

“’Sup, chief?” Petrolove called out in his Texas twang as he strutted into my office.

“Petro, Mandrake here tells me there’s the risk of some ‘Doomsday Machine’ that could plunge humanity into environmental oblivion if we keep standing up for our friends in the carbon-energy sector,” I said. “Go ahead and tell him how full of malarkey he is.”

“Um …,” Petro said, shuffling his cowboy boots, unable to look at me.

“Go ahead, Doc. School Mandrake for me.”

“Well, el hefe,” Petrolove said, haltingly clearing his throat, “the Doomsday Machine is real and terrifying, but completely credible and easy to understand. If we don’t decrease the carbon that we’re pumping into the atmosphere, it will create a doomsday shroud around the planet.”

Chills ran down my back. I swallowed hard. Suddenly I understood. Why hadn’t I seen the devastating truth of this all along? Why had I clung to naïve beliefs in the face of clear evidence? It was, indeed, an inconvenient truth, but it was high time I accepted it … and spoke it.

“Damn shame the libs got to you, too, Petro. You’re fired.”

by Bob Lewis, Virginia Mercury


Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sarah Vogelsong for questions: info@virginiamercury.com. Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

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Let me ask you one thing, what limits you?

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This video came in our email today, and we want to share it with you. It’s from Gary Barker, Maxwell Leadership. It was presented at the GRAPHICS PRO EXPO Charlotte.

 

 

 

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Response to Letters to the Editor by Mr. Waller Wilson

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In response to Mr. Wilson’s request for “C.J. Cook to cite some sources for his/her opinion,”.

First, some house cleaning: it is his, not her; C.J. stands for Cyril Joseph. Second when I submitted the article to the Royal Examiner, I had footnoted my sources in the article’s footer. I don’t know why they did not appear in the post. They are repeated here for info: “Hot Talk Cold Science” by Singer, Chapter 6 p77, “Dark Winter” by Casey, Appendix 3 Figure A3-2 p89.

As to the question on CO2, chapter 10 of “Hot Talk Cold Science” (revised and expanded third edition copyright 2021) is devoted to the subject of CO2in the atmosphere. Chapter 10, page 130, states: “Greenhouse gas” means only that CO2 absorbs some radiation; it does not guarantee climate warming, the forcing of CO2 depends on where it is in the atmosphere. Its actual behavior depends mostly on atmospheric structure, expressed by atmospheric lapse rate (ALR), and is defined as the change in atmospheric temperature with altitude.

The Atmospheric Lapse Rate (ALR) is different for the three regions of the atmosphere. The ALR is positive for the Stratosphere, Zero for the Tropopause, and Negative for the Troposphere. This supports the principle that depending on where in the atmosphere, the radiation on the CO2 molecules can produce cooling. The following statement on the Climate4U website is taken from a graph of CO2 in ppm and HadCRUT3 temperature.

Climate4You website 20080927: Reflections on the correlation between global temperature and atmospheric CO2 “By this, the diagram illustrates that the overall relation between atmospheric CO2 and global temperature apparently has changed several times since 1958.

In the early part of the period, with CO2 concentrations close to 315 ppm, an increase in CO2 was associated with decreasing global air temperatures. When the CO2 concentration around 1975 reached 325 ppm, this association changed, and increasing atmospheric CO2 was now associated with rising global temperatures. However, when the CO2 concentration at the turn of the century reached about 378 ppm, the association possibly changed back to that, characterizing the period before 1975, before apparently changing again around 2014.” So the curve fit shows a decrease after 1958 followed by an increase until July of 2022, when it slope became negative again. The data and graph were updated on 8 September 2022.

These are the sources (and some additional data) you requested.

Cyril J. Cook
Strasburg, Va.

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I think it’s safe to say that Tangiers Island is safe from the “Doomsday Glacier” as a matter of public policy.

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I just read “Commentary: National approach is more urgent than stopgap funding for Tangier Island,” written by Roger Chesley for the Virginia Mercury news service. The commentary starts out:

“A so-called “doomsday glacier” in Antarctica that could raise sea levels several feet is disintegrating faster than previously predicted, according to a new study.”

I clicked on the Nature study that is linked, and it does not give a prediction for sea level rise, but it references another study that does give a sea level rise prediction and timeline. The referenced study (unfortunately abstract only) is here https://www.science.org/doi/abs/10.1126/science.1249055, and it says:

“Simulated losses are moderate (<0.25 mm per year at sea level) over the 21st century but generally increase thereafter.”

In other words, less than an inch of sea level rise between now and 2100, with a more rapid rise starting between 200 and 900 years from now. I think it’s safe to say that Tangiers Island is safe from the “Doomsday Glacier” as a matter of public policy.

But what about sea level rise from other sources? There’s sea level rise from expanding oceans due to global warming. There’s also glacier melt, Greenland melt, and other Antarctic melt. Sea level rise is constantly measured by satellite. An up-to-date estimate can be found here: https://sealevel.colorado.edu It comes to an adjusted 1.3 inches (an actual rise of 1.1 before adjustment) per decade with some acceleration, as shown.

However, there’s another major factor for Tangier Island, as Roger points out in an op-ed that he links in “Commentary”:

“He (Skip Stiles, executive director of Norfolk-based Wetlands Watch) said the Virginia Institute of Marine Science delivered a report to the legislature last year on recurrent flooding in Tidewater. It noted an expected 18-inch increase in sea-level rise over the next 20 to 50 years in Virginia.”

The Tidewater area, including Tangier Island, is subsiding. There is another Nature study describing the subsidence around Tangier Island and providing some predictions of sea level rise:: https://www.nature.com/articles/srep17890

I believe all measurements, predictions, costs, and benefits should be considered with full caveats and context. As is the case in a representative democracy, politicians will make the decision whether to spend money preserving Tangiers for at least a few decades and potentially longer. As I have said before, we are not a scientocracy, and we should consider science, such as sea level rise predictions, as one of the inputs to the political process.

Eric Peterson
Front Royal, VA

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Commentary: Miyares plays ‘election integrity’ politics to romance the MAGA base

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Politicians will play politics. And there’s nothing wrong with that, generally.

The problem comes when the malignant notion takes hold that an overwhelmingly clean, fair process of administering elections is fair game for a partisan disinformation campaign to subvert public faith in the process and impose a corrupt system under one-party control.

The MAGA wing of today’s Republican Party knows that its ever-deepening right-wing nationalism, its penchant for bizarre and baseless conspiracies and the extremist candidates it attracts will alienate America’s mainstream and make it harder to win fair elections in an increasingly diverse nation without its heavy thumb on the scales.

The latest to give comfort toward that antidemocratic end is Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares, who is creating a 20-person “election integrity unit” in his office. That’s particularly dismaying because Miyares is not among the Republicans who falsely claim President Joe Biden usurped Donald Trump’s presidency through fraud. At least that’s what the office’s spokeswoman, Victoria LaCivita, recently assured the Mercury’s Graham Moomaw.

But Miyares can’t resist playing politics and pandering to the GOP’s Trumpist hard-liners whom he could ask to nominate him for governor of Virginia in less than three years.

I’ve covered elections and the machinery for carrying them out from the precinct level to the top echelons of state government for decades. Perhaps the most edifying part of that job is witnessing firsthand each year how ordinary Virginians, motivated by a strong civic spirit, invest exhausting hours at neighborhood voting precincts so citizens can vote. Up and down the line in Virginia, under Republican and Democratic administrations, election officials played it by the book without regard to party or ideology, helping Virginia’s electorate translate its collective will and wisdom into government policy.

The system was never perfect. Mistakes occur. Antiquated technology fails. There’s both misfeasance and malfeasance, but deliberate wrongdoing on a scale that can alter an election’s legitimate outcome is exceedingly rare.

One validation is the risk-limiting audits the Department of Elections conducts after each statewide election as required by Virginia law.

In the 2020 presidential and U.S. Senate races, the audit found that the risk of a mistake large enough to reverse outcomes of the election – victories for Democrats Biden and Sen. Mark Warner – was less than a ten-thousandth of a percentage point. Expressed another way, the audit found accuracy levels for both races exceeded 99.9999%.

For the 2021 race, dominated by Gov. Glenn Youngkin and his GOP ticket, the risk-limiting audit tested two House of Delegates races – the 13th House District won by Democratic Del. Danica Roem over Republican Christopher Stone, both from Manassas, and the 75th District won by Republican Otto Wachmann over longtime Democratic Del. Roslyn Tyler, both of Sussex – and again found accuracy levels exceeding 99.7%.

Malicious efforts to vote illegally or fraudulently influence an outcome are scarce if prosecutions or official litigation are a reliable measure.

The conservative Heritage Foundation has created a searchable online database of all the “recent proven instances of election fraud from across the country” that it can find. For context, it considers the early 1990s recent. It calls the database “a sampling” and “not an exhaustive or comprehensive list.”

The database, spanning at least eight presidential elections, documents 1,375 proven instances of fraud. Of that total, 1,182 resulted in criminal convictions, 48 resulted in civil penalties, 103 resulted in a diversion program, and 42 resulted in official or judicial findings, which can sometimes overturn the result of an election or exclude a candidate from the ballot.

Twenty of the 1,375 cases were in Virginia. They date to 2007, and none involved findings that reversed elections. Six of the cases were false registrations, and five each were for ineligible voting, mostly by felons, and ballot petition fraud, mostly bogus signatures. The most serious case, tried in 2007, involved the former mayor of Appalachia and 14 others who were convicted of conspiring to buy votes in the 2004 municipal election with, among other things, cigarettes, beer and pork rinds. The mayor served two years in jail and two years of monitored home detention in what the Heritage Foundation calls “the largest voter fraud conspiracy to date in Virginia.”

Because the database includes only cases in which there has been a dispositive outcome, it does not reflect the recent indictment of Michele White, a former top Prince William County election official, on corruption charges as announced by Miyares’ office. As The Washington Post reported on Sept. 7, current Prince William County Registrar Eric Olsen said that a small number of votes in the 2020 election may have been affected, but not enough to affect any election results.

Voting or election fraud is a serious business in a democracy. It deserves to be prosecuted. For every vote illegally cast or every action that falsifies or cheats someone out of the right to vote, a citizen is deprived of his or her franchise, the most precious of blessings in a democratic republic. The same goes for deceitful and intimidating voter-suppression tactics.

But to assert that it is somehow pervasive, as “election integrity” crusades rooted in Trump’s corrosive election lies do, is wrong.

Consider that in the 15-year span during which those 20 Virginia cases were adjudicated, nearly 41 million Virginians voted in fall general elections. That doesn’t count special elections, local municipal or county races or primaries.

That’s hardly a ratio that demands a call to arms.

Miyares knows that. He’s a smart guy and a good lawyer. He knows that the office to which he was elected already has “full authority to do whatever is necessary or appropriate to enforce the election laws or prosecute violations thereof.” His prosecution of White had already demonstrated that better than his subsequent announcement of an election bunko squad ever could.

There’s less to his strike force than meets the eye. It has no separate budget. It will be composed primarily of staff who can juggle election investigations alongside other duties to which they are already assigned.

But, alas, it’s good politics – for Miyares, anyway. Not only does it stoke a GOP base that will likely be asked to choose between him and Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears in 2025 for the party’s gubernatorial nomination, but the unit stands to get a lot of fodder tossed its way soon because of an impending change in the partisan makeup of electoral boards in all 133 localities.

Among the spoils that go to the victor of gubernatorial elections is the right to have the new governor’s party dominate state and local electoral boards. Next year, those boards shift from Democratic majorities to GOP majorities. And in Miyares, they have an attorney general with a platoon poised to pounce on any perceived irregularities they feed him.

How better to contrive an argument for restoring the restrictive voting laws the GOP implemented while it dominated the General Assembly for most of the first two decades of the 21st century? Laws like the photo ID requirement and rigid constraints on early and absentee voting that made it hard for marginalized and disabled Virginians to vote were repealed after Democrats briefly won full control of the General Assembly in 2019. Republicans, who regained a slim House majority last year, advanced voting restriction bills in the 2021 legislative session, but they died in a Democratic Senate.

You’d hope that Miyares and his party could advance beyond one election in which Virginia (and the nation) repudiated the most noxious president in U.S. history without trying to immolate the nation’s imperfect yet solid election infrastructure in obsequious fealty to Trump’s delusions. Virginia proved to the country last November, just one year after it had resoundingly elected Democrats, that its system is not rigged against Republicans.

And nothing made the case better than Miyares’ own impressive victory, the most unexpected of them all.

by Bob Lewis, Virginia Mercury


Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sarah Vogelsong for questions: info@virginiamercury.com. Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

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