Old Ballot Application
Old Ballot Application

 

Reprinted with permission from Jill Palermo

Insidenova.com:

An unauthorized investigation aimed at uncovering possible voter fraud might cost Prince William County Electoral Board Chairman Guy Anthony “Tony” Guiffré his job.

The Virginia State Board of Elections took a rare vote Friday to initiate steps to remove Guiffré from the county electoral board over allegations he compromised voter privacy and might have broken state and federal laws. The allegations stem from his efforts to determine whether absentee ballots were improperly requested for the Nov. 3 election.

The three-member state board, which includes two Democrats and one Republican, voted along party lines during a meeting in Richmond to ask Attorney General Mark Herring (D) to begin the removal proceedings.

Guiffré’s fate will ultimately be decided by the Prince William County Circuit Court.

Guiffré, an accountant, is a former Gainesville Magisterial District Supervisor who has served on the electoral board since 2007.

He is accused of exposing voters’ personal information – Social Security numbers and birth dates — and making unredacted copies of sensitive voting materials, including voter-registration forms and absentee ballot return envelopes. Doing so is a Class 5 felony, according to state code.

Several copies and paperwork related to Guiffré’s investigation were turned over to a detective with the Prince William County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, according to documents submitted to the State Board of Elections.

Guiffré recruited four friends, all female members of the local Republican Committee, to help him verify the signatures of voters who requested absentee ballots via an online process that requires only an “electronic signature,” usually a typed name, instead of a handwritten signature.

Last fall, the county electoral board discussed making such checks and had initially agreed to do so before the Nov. 3 election in response to concerns about the online process being subject to fraud.

But in a special meeting Oct. 20, the three-member county board reversed course after hearing from Virginia Department of Elections Commissioner Edgardo Cortés, who traveled to Manassas to advise them that Virginia law does not permit election officials to verify the signatures or treat absentee ballots requested online any differently than those obtained via paper forms.

Still, Guiffré was determined to check the signatures and did so after the election – on Nov. 16 and 17, when Prince William County Registrar Michele White was out of the office on pre-scheduled leave.

And that’s where the trouble began.

Guiffré “deputized” his four friends with the oath for election officials and then proceeded to examine 151 absentee ballot envelopes for possible irregularities. A total of 753 absentee ballots were requested in Prince William, via the online process, for the November election.

The team checked for irregularities by pulling voter-registration cards kept on file at the county Office of Elections to compare signatures on the forms with those submitted on the absentee-ballot return envelopes. Guiffré reported finding questionable signatures on about 6 percent of the envelopes examined.

Guiffré enlisted Office of Elections staff members to help with the process, some of whom wrote statements to the State Board of Elections reporting they were upset with the violation of voter privacy and felt uncomfortable participating.

Prince William Board of Elections Secretary Keith Scarborough, Vice Chairwoman Jane Reynolds and White all testified. Guiffré also attended but said his lawyer had advised him not to comment.

Scarborough said Guiffré ignored state elections officials and violated the local board’s trust by conducting his “rogue” investigation.

“We cannot continue to operate with a rogue board member who feels he has the ability to break the law in order to try and see whether somebody else has done something wrong,” Scarborough said. “I believe his conduct was so outrageous and so over the top that he should be removed from our electoral board.”

White said “several laws were broken” by Guiffré and his team, and that voters were the victims of their efforts.

“Voters in Prince William County need to have every confidence that their [personal information] is not being compromised,” she said, adding: “It cannot continue to stand that a board member commits singular, illegal acts in order to prove voter fraud.”

State Board of Elections Vice Chairwoman Clara Belle Wheeler, a Republican, defended Guiffré’s actions, noting that the integrity of the vote must be protected.

She also urged her fellow state board members to find a way to examine the online absentee ballot application process, as it was used for the November election, to ensure the option wasn’t abused.

James Alcorn, chairman of the state board, agreed an inquiry would be a good idea, but stressed that it must be done “the right way,” with experts skilled in signature comparison and a careful examination of data.

What Guiffré did, Alcorn said, was not the right approach. Alcorn called Guiffré’s decision to defy his board’s vote “quite alarming” and referred to the vote to remove him as “the nuclear option” for a board that rarely takes such punitive action.

“Again, I take no joy in that,” Alcorn said. “But this seems about as egregious as I’ve ever seen.”

This story gets more and more outlandish.  Reminder–the on-line absentee ballot application was started by Speaker Howell (R).  I was notified that the process had moved from printing out a downloaded application to vote absentee (to be completed and mailed in to the voter registrar) to just applying online by none other than Delegate Jackson Miller.  This new process was hardly partisan.  It certainly seems like it has become so.

It appears that there are now two issues.  Should Tony Guiffré be removed from the Prince William Election Board is the first issue to deal with.  Apparently the state Republican Election official has defended him and his behavior.  The other 2 who are Democrats, have not.  They voted to forward his case to Attorney General Herring to begin removal proceedings.  Funny how some Republicans like to shout Rule of Law at every turn but fail to abide by this concept when it doesn’t suit their needs. State election officer  Clara Bell Wheeler apparently thinks that two or more wrongs do make a right.  She overlooks the fact that there had been no wrong-doing until the over-zealous Guiffré started tampering with the returned envelopes.    The only wrong-doing seemedto be in the mind of Mr. Guiffré.

Meanwhile, back in Prince William County, it appears that Guiffré could have violated several state statutes.  Will he have to stand trial?  If he does, who will foot the bill?  He had been warned not to go ahead with signature verification:

But in a special meeting Oct. 20, the three-member county board reversed course after hearing from Virginia Department of Elections Commissioner Edgardo Cortés, who traveled to Manassas to advise them that Virginia law does not permit election officials to verify the signatures or treat absentee ballots requested online any differently than those obtained via paper forms.

Still Guiffré forged ahead, despite being told not to do so.  In fact, he waited until the county Registrar, Ms. White, was at a pre-arranged conference and was gone.  Such hard-headedness could result in Guiffré being charged with a class 5 felony.

Apparently the thorn in the side of Guiffré is the electronic signature.  I refinanced my house last summer.  All my applications required an electronic signature.  I didn’t actually take pen in hand until I went to closing.  If electronic signature is good enough to make application to borrow several hundred  thousand dollars,  why isn’t it good enough for an absentee ballot application?

Only about 3/5ths of all Americans vote in a presidential election.  In off years, even fewer vote.  I think we should make voting easier for people rather than more difficult.  In the west, some states don’t even go to the polls. All voting is mail in.  Do those states have more voter fraud?  Not that I am aware of.

I think this paranoia about voter fraud is simply that–paranoia.  I am tired of hearing about it.  Show me some voter fraud.  Right now, I just feel violated.  I was one of those 751 absentee voters who applied online for their ballot.  Has my confidential information been compromised?  I don’t know.  If  my identity has been stolen, should I blame Guiffré and his ladies for the problem?  Will they reimburse me for my troubles?  Will the taxpayers of Prince William County have to pay for the county attorney to represent Guiffré?  Will I have to pay to be violated?

Why is an election officer ordering around county employees?  Shouldn’t directives come from the 3-person election board  rather than from an individual?  Shouldn’t those directives go  to the registrar and she in turn direct her employees?  There is just something about that chain of command that works every time.   It is my understanding from my sources that Mr. Guiffré often sidesteps chain of command.

Tony Guiffré has some serious issues ahead of him.  He has brought them on himself.  First and foremost, he should be removed from his post.

3 thoughts on “Guiffré saga continues–fighting the forces of voter fraud???

  1. Pat.Herve

    The campaign committee of Tim Hugo physically mailed me an unrequested absentee ballot – sure they paid for the stamp to mail it, but who pays for all the unrequested ballots – we, the tax payer.

    He thought he was above the law and could do what he wanted. If he thought there were irregularities surely there is a process – if not, why isn’t he creating the process. I wonder what criteria he used to pull out those ballots – was it address, gender, which primary one voted in…..

    We only have integrity if those at the top also have integrity.

  2. Watching

    @Pat I suspect Hugo sent you an unrequested form that let you request an absentee ballot, not an absentee ballot itself. Also, Hugo often sends out correspondence that looks “official” but has a small note that it was paid for by his campaign. I once complained about this and was told many legislators do this, both Democratic and Republican, and though slimy, is legal. So much for ethics reform in Virginia.

    I think Tony really stepped over the line and, at the very least, be removed from the Electoral Board. I, too, am tired of people thinking they are above the law.

    1. I was incredibly happy to be sent the link to request the application. It arrived just a few days later. I expect that this procedure ends up saving money also. Here is how it helped me:

      1. I didn’t have to download a form 2. I didn’t have to fool around with my temperamental printer 3. I didn’t have to hard-wire my printer when the wi fi way didn’t work 4. I didn’t have to fill out a form 5. I didn’t have to find and envelope and stamp.

      That process usually takes a while from start to finish.

      I feel that Tony absolutely should be removed and never allowed in the Prince William electoral process again. I don’t want him jailed, just banned. Fining would be ok though. Maybe fining and a little community service–far away from the election process. Maybe tutoring at the jail would be a good reminder of where this could have gone.

Comments are closed.