City voter registrar may be out

Jeremy M. Lazarus | 1/14/2021, 6 p.m.
Kirk Showalter’s 25-year tenure as Richmond’s voter registrar may be coming to an end.
Ms. Showalter

Kirk Showalter’s 25-year tenure as Richmond’s voter registrar may be coming to an end.

Expectations are rising that the Richmond Electoral Board’s Democratic majority will vote to remove Ms. Showalter when the board meets Feb. 1 to consider upcoming elections.

In response to a Free Press query, James M. Nachman, chair of the three-member board, would only say that the meeting agenda would include a closed-door session to discuss Ms. Showalter’s continued service.

Mr. Nachman declined to comment on the action that would be taken, if any, against Ms. Showalter, including relieving her of her post.

“This is a personnel matter,” he said.

He said if the board decides to act, there would be a vote after the closed session. However, Mr. Nachman appears to have tipped his hand on the outcome to the Richmond City Democratic Committee, which is among those seeking Ms. Showalter’s ouster in part because of mistakes in the unofficial results issued in two City Council races immediately after the Nov. 3 election.

State Democratic Party officials also have called for Ms. Showalter’s firing or resignation over allegations that she failed to comply with a new state law requiring registrars within three days to reach voters who made mistakes on mailed-in ballots so those voters could “cure” the mistakes.

Two people who participated in the virtual City Democratic Committee meeting last week said that Mr. Nachman, a former committee chair, advised about the upcoming Electoral Board meeting and added that those calling for Ms. Showalter’s ouster would likely be satisfied when it was over.

The city Electoral Board includes two Democrats and one Republican. The other Democrat on the board, Joyce K. Smith, already has indicated that she would vote for Ms. Showalter’s removal.

Ms. Showalter has held the post since 1995 and was reappointed to her seventh, four-year term in 2019.

She is not commenting on the upcoming meeting.

In the face of the criticism and calls for her removal, she previously said, “I am confident that the allegations will be examined, and it will be shown that the (Nov. 3) election was managed well under difficult circumstances and that my staff and I did all in our power to comply with the changes imposed by the pandemic and the additional requirements.”

Under state law, local election boards must have grounds to remove a registrar based on his or her failure to perform or violation of a duty that a registrar is required to carry out.

It is a rare action, and a fired registrar can file an action in circuit court to overturn a termination. At least two registrars in Virginia have successfully done so in recent years.