ICYMI: Student admits to voter fraud in Harrisonburg, investigation ongoing

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Daily News Record: Student Admits To Fraud
By: Tony Brown
September 15, 2016

Authorities say a James Madison University student confessed that he acted on his own for nonpolitical personal reasons when he filed voter registration applications in the names of dead people, not on behalf of the voter registration organization he worked for.

But two sources close to the FBI and Harrisonburg Police Department investigation said Thursday that agents are continuing to carefully examine all applications turned in since February by the HarrisonburgVotes registration-drive organization, “just to be thorough.”

HarrisonburgVotes co-founder Joe Fitzgerald identified the student as senior political science major Andrew Spieles. One of the sources close to the investigation confirmed the identity of the suspect. Fitzgerald said he fired the student immediately after the suspect confessed on Aug. 15, and contacted authorities the following day.

“He’s smart, and he understands the [political] process,” said Fitzgerald, a prominent local Democratic politician who founded HarrisonburgVotes with lawyer Tom Domonoske, a member of the nonpartisan Harrisonburg School Board. “Who the hell knows what his motivations were?”

An attempt to reach the student through a Facebook page in the name of Andrew J. Spieles, a member of the Virginia Young Democrats, was unsuccessful, as were attempts to reach him at a phone number and email address listed on a JMU online directory in the name of Andrew James Spieles.

A Harrisonburg lawyer believed to represent the suspect would not confirm or deny that he is counsel for the student.

One of the highly placed sources said the investigation began when the Harrisonburg Registrar’s Office alerted authorities to suspicious applications.

It remains unclear who, if anyone, will be charged. City Director of Elections Deborah Logan said she will turn in all applications found to be false to the Harrisonburg Electoral Board so that they can be disqualified.

The investigation was first revealed Monday by Logan at an Electoral Board meeting, and the involvement of an unnamed student was first reported on Thursday by The Breeze, JMU’s student newspaper.

The Breeze: JMU student under investigation for alleged voter fraud
By: Brooke Blaney
September 15, 2016

A JMU student allegedly committed voter fraud recently using the identities of deceased people while working to register voters through HarrisonburgVOTES.

“He turned in 19 voters to the registrar [of] folks that were deceased,” said a source with HarrisonburgVOTES, who wished to remain anonymous to avoid connecting the accused student with any campus organizations.

The suspect worked for this organization for about nine weeks while he allegedly submitted both legitimate and fraudulent voter registration forms. HarrisonburgVOTES isn’t involved in this case. While The Breeze has identified this student, it has chosen to withhold any identifying information until a charge occurs.

“Several weeks ago, an organization engaged in registering voters for the upcoming election submitted numerous voter registration applications. A review by my office staff revealed that a number of these registration applications appeared false,” the Harrisonburg Voter Registrar’s Office said in a press release on September 12.

There have been no other suspects released to the public as of Thursday.

“I want everyone to know that our office is handling this as advised by the city attorney, the commonwealth’s attorney, the police investigator and the FBI agent,” the Registrar’s Office said.

Before the upcoming election, the Voter Registrar’s Office reports that they’ll cancel the false voter registrations by submitting the list to their Electoral Board. These false reports were originally brought to the commonwealth attorney’s attention by a family member of one of the deceased citizens used for the registrations.

“On August 15 I found out and on the 16 [the suspect] confessed to me,” said Joe Fitzgerald, the technology coordinator for the dean’s office of the College of Arts and Letters. “I contacted the police immediately to let them know what I knew.”

HarrisonburgVOTES takes no responsibility for the student’s actions. Several members of this organization supported the termination of his position.

“We realized they were bad forms and [the student] was immediately fired,” the anonymous source said.

The student has no apparent connections in this case. Also, HarrisonburgVOTES is the only organization the student allegedly used to submit the registrations anywhere on campus or otherwise. Their motivation for filling out forms with the names of the deceased, for a period of about nine weeks, is currently unknown.

“I am not involved directly in the investigation but I know it appears there was only one person involved who did it on [their] own for reasons that pass all understanding,” Fitzgerald said.

The voter fraud allegedly committed by the student has only recently been reported on. Fitzgerald and the anonymous source reached out to The Breeze in an effort to provide JMU students with prompt and accurate information on this crime’s investigation.

WHSV: Voter fraud investigation continues in Harrisonburg
By: WHSV Newsroom
September 15, 2016

The FBI and Harrisonburg Police are investigating voter fraud.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Marsha Garst said law enforcement is lookingin to whether an organization used “a number of” deceased people’s information to register to vote. As ofTuesday afternoon, the investigation is ongoing and she could not release more information.

According to a statement from the Harrisonburg Registrar’s Office, a family member notified the Commonwealth’s Attorney and an investigation was opened by the Harrisonburg Police Department.

You can read the full statement from the Harrisonburg Registrar’s Office, with all details of the situation, at the bottom of this article below the asterisks.

Director of Elections Deborah Logan said you can look up yours or your deceased family member’s voter registration status online. She said you can also call the voter registrar’s office and they can help you as well.

The office said they will submit a full list of false registrations to the Electoral Board before election so the registrations can be canceled.

Full Statement from the Harrisonburg Registrar’s Office

“Several weeks ago an organization engaged in registering voters for the upcoming election submitted numerous voter registration applications. A review by my office staff revealed that a number of these registration applications appeared false. An affected party’s family member notified the Commonwealth’s Attorney and an investigation was opened by the Harrisonburg Police Department. The matter has also been investigated by the FBI. At this time, the Harrisonburg Police Department continues its investigation but my understanding is the matter has been referred to the Commonwealth’s Attorney and the United States Attorney for the Western District of Virginia. So far the investigation has revealed a number of voter registration applications that are false. At some point before the election, we will submit a list of the false voter registrations to the Electoral Board to have those registrations cancelled. This is all the information I have at this time.

It has come to my attention that this matter has hit social media and I want everyone to know that our office is handling this as advised by the City Attorney, the Commonwealth’s Attorney the Police Investigator and the FBI Agent.

Questions can be directed to Chris Bean at the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office.”

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