Oct. 20, 2012 -- A Pennsylvania man has been arrested for attempting to throw away completed voter registration cards in Virginia.
Colin Small, 31, a Republican voter registration contractor, is currently behind bars in Rockingham County Jail in Harrisonburg, Virginia. He is being charged with eight felonies and five misdemeanors for allegedly throwing eight voter registration forms in a dumpster.
Small was working on a get-out-the-vote operation paid for with funds provided by the Republican National Committee. The Republican Party of Virginia originally outsourced the work to Strategic Allied Consulting, who outsourced some duties to PinPoint, Small's employer. When the RNC fired Strategic Allied Consulting in September, and state party officials took over voter efforts, Small remained part of the registration work until this incident happened.
Rob Johnson, a local business manager in Harrisonburg, was the man who caught Small. Johnson was outside having a cigarette break when he witnessed Small exit his black Toyota Camry with a white garbage bag and throw it into a recycling dumpster outside of his business.
"I was just ticked off that someone was throwing garbage in my dumpster, I never anticipated discovering what I found!" Johnson said during a telephone interview.
Johnson said he thought it bizarre that the white bag was relatively light, so he checked to see what was inside. He found a single manila folder with eight voter registration forms and immediately called the local Sheriff's office. He also posted it on his Facebook page. He wrote:
"I just saw a guy throw a bag of trash in my cardboard dumpster and speed off. I went to get the bag and throw it in the trash dumpster," he wrote. "In the bag was a folder containing FILLED OUT VIRGINIA VOTER REGISTRATION FORMS!! I called the Harrisonburg Registrars office and they sent the police who said they really didn't know what to do in a case like this because it's never happened before. The police took the forms and left. I'm really concerned because today is the last day in Virginia to register to vote and if these forms are tied up while trying to figure out what to do, will these people be allowed to vote???"
Virginians don't specify a party when they register so it is unclear which party the would-be voters support. It is also unclear if Small was in possession of any other registration forms or where he got the forms. Virginians are given a receipt when they register with the name of the person who registered them. Small was not listed as the person responsible for registering the voters of the disposed forms.
The Rockland County sheriff's office was initially torn about what to do because the forms were from three different counties. They eventually gave the forms to the Rockland County Registrar, which followed up with the individuals whose names appeared on the forms.
Doug Geib, the voter registrar in Rockingham County said that since the incident, local residents have been calling in to make sure they are registered to vote.
"I'm not too concerned about the issue because the sheriff's office described it as an 'isolated situation,' " said Geib.
The Rockingham County sheriff is currently investigating the voter fraud and declined to comment, but did put out a press release that said, "There is no indication that this activity was widespread in our jurisdiction; it appears to be very limited in nature but there is the possibility that additional charges may be filed in the future if it is deemed appropriate. There are no other details that we can release at this time, as this is still an active and ongoing criminal investigation."
The Republican Party of Virginia Chairman Pat Mullins released the following statement in reaction to Small's arrest, "We were alarmed by allegations recently made regarding an individual in Harrisonburg. The actions taken by this individual are a direct contradiction of both his training and explicit instructions given to him. The Republican Party of Virginia will not tolerate any action by any person that could threaten the integrity of our electoral process."
Since fishing the ballots out of the dumpster, Johnson has received a phone call from the mother of one of the alleged victims.
"She called to thank me for what I had done because now her eighteen year old son will be able to vote in his first presidential election," he said.
This is not Virginia's first brush with voter suppression. During the 2008 presidential election, fake flyers were sent to Democrats in the cities of Hampton, Newport News, Virginia Beach and Norfolk, urging them to vote on Nov 5, a day before the election.
As the New Civil Rights Movement blog reported last month, Republicans have recently paid several firms with a history of alleged voter fraud, more than $2 million for "voter registration" in battleground states.
If you have any concerns about your voting eligibility you should contact your local Registrars Office and confirm that you are registered to vote.