My earliest experience in government and politics came when I was a senior in high school. Responding to rumors in the rural community where I lived with my parents that vote buying was going on, I did a research paper at the encouragement of my government class teacher who knew of my intense interest in politics to learn whether vote buying was taking place. I made an inquiry to the then-secretary of the State Board of Elections as to whether I could secure vote totals along with the absentee votes cast for all the jurisdictions in the 1950s. Much to my surprise he responded with the numbers, and I charted votes cast in total along with the absentee votes cast. What I found was what I had been told: In rural Page County where I lived and several counties in far Southwest Virginia the percentage of absentee votes cast in years when local officials were elected would be about one-third. In other jurisdictions including more urban and suburban areas, absentee votes would account for only one to two percent.
What was happening was that political workers in these counties, apparently of both parties, would go out to backroads and mountain hollows with absentee ballots for which they would approach voters by agreeing to pay their poll taxes that were required to vote at the time and promising who knows what other favors. The answer I received when I inquired of leaders of both parties as to why this illegal practice continued was that both sides were doing it and there was no one left to enforce the law!
The poll tax requiring voters to pay a tax three years in a row at least six months before the election was instituted in the 1902 Constitution with the avowed purpose of “cleaning up” elections, translated to mean keeping Black citizens and poor whites from voting. Along with the blank sheet voter registration and literacy test the number of registered voters was cut in half. The reform of the voting system had met its intended purpose of ensuring— without fraud—that only the “right” people voted.
Fortunately, these abuses of the electoral system were eliminated by a federal constitutional amendment and court decisions. With the outcome of the Virginia elections in 2019 a more progressive General Assembly and governor were elected who further modernized the electoral registration and voting system to make Virginia a leader in election reform. We have the most open and accessible system of government among the states.
For the dozens of people who emailed me (with few emails coming from my constituents) asking that I seek a “forensic investigation” of the outcome of the 2020 election in Virginia, I want to be clear that I will not seek such an investigation. President Biden won clearly nationwide, and he won by a landslide in Virginia. There is no credible evidence of fraud or irregularities. The entire election process in Virginia is monitored by persons of both parties. The “big lie” is just that. Those who propose election changes to enhance their chances of winning are the ones who are creating the fraud.