Virginia College Student to Plead Guilty to Voter Fraud
Crime probably wouldn't have been uncovered if government worker hadn't recognized one of the names
A Virginia college student has agreed to plead guilty to submitting 18 fraudulent voter registration forms, which likely would not have been detected if a government employee had not recognized the name of a judge’s dead father.
Andrew Spieles, a James Madison University student, was working for a Democratic-affiliated group called HarrisonburgVOTES before the 2016 election, according to a court document filed this week in federal court. A plea hearing has been set for June 20.
The court document laying out facts in the case indicates that in August, an assistant registrar in Harrisonburg, a small town in the Shenandoah Valley, recognized the name of one of the applicants as belonging to the deceased father of a Rockingham County judge. The registrar’s office called the family and confirmed the information.
Another assistant recognized the name of a supposed applicant and called that man’s ex-wife, who reported that the application had the wrong middle name, date of birth and Social Security number, according to the document. Additional research uncovered other suspect registration forms.
“Absent the assistants’ personal familiarity with certain names on the fraudulent documents, the fraud would not have been detected because the Registrar’s office does not check the validity of the voter-registration applications,” the court document states. “The role of the Registrar’s office was to check the registration forms to ensure they were filled out correctly … There was no procedure or policy in place for the Registrar’s office to verify the content of the registration forms except through felon and death reports.”
The document added: “Investigating officers were further advised that there is no current entity that verifies the validity of Virginia voter registration forms.”
A. Gene Hart, an attorney for Spieles, declined to comment Friday.
Logan Churchwell, a spokesman for the Public Interest Legal Foundation, said the case is another example of something that many progressives insist never occurs — voter fraud. He said it is “more common that not, really.”
“It’s good to see the Justice Department is filing voter fraud cases again … We weren’t seeing these kinds of cases until very recently.”
The frequency of fraud is impossible to know because the system is not set up to detect it, according to voter-integrity advocates. The Public Interest Legal Foundation recently published a report showing more than 7,400 votes in Virginia have been cast by ineligible voters since 2011.
Churchwell said the Harrisonburg case reminds him of a recent case in Dallas where voters came forward to report that they did not request absentee ballots that had been applied for in their names.
“It wasn’t until voters who were being hurt really spoke out” that authorities knew anything was amiss, he said.
The Spieles case is going to court seven months after the 2016 election. Churchwell said that is typical — when voter fraud gets prosecuted at all.
“Whenever there’s a flaw in the system, it usually isn’t until years later,” he said.
The factual summary filed in the Spieles case indicates that he registered more than 2,000 voters in 2015 and 2016. In April 2016, he began registering voters for the New VA Majority, receiving $150 for each new voter. In July, he started working for HarrisonburgVOTES, earning $350 a week. He admitted that he falsified voter registration forms on August 1 by creating fictitious voter information using data from “walk sheets” that he had received from the Virginia Democratic Party.
He admitted that he used names and addresses from those sheets and then made up other information. He told authorities that he submitted the fraudulent form to help another employee who was behind on his or her quota.
Churchwell praised the U.S. attorney’s office for pursuing the case.
“The good news is they handled it,” he said. “A prosecution happened. It wasn’t just quietly pushed aside.”
He added: “It’s good to see the Justice Department is filing voter fraud cases again … We weren’t seeing these kinds of cases until very recently.”