VIRGINIA BEACH — The 2019 election is right around the corner, but the 2018 election season is still playing in the background.
Between allegations of fraud, a historic recount, and a voided election — the 2018 general election was one for the books. Here’s a recap of the election drama, some of which are still playing out.
Scott Taylor signatures scandal
A special prosecutor was appointed in August 2018 to investigate possible violations of the state’s election laws, and forgery, involving the gathering of signatures for Shaun Brown’s independent bid for the 2nd Congressional District.
The signatures were gathered by staff associated with former-Rep. Scott Taylor, R-2nd, and his re-election campaign. Taylor was running against Elaine Luria, who won the election, and Taylor worked to gather petition signatures on Brown’s behalf. The move is an old political tactic — an effort to split a candidate’s opponent’s votes.
Shaun Brown indictment
Amidst allegations of fraud thrown at Taylor’s staff, Brown herself had been under indictment on charges of conspiracy, wire fraud and theft of government property since December 2017. She was accused of orchestrating a scheme that defrauded a United States Department of Agriculture’s food program.
Although Brown called the federal indictment “a designed cover up” in a December 2017 written statement, a jury convicted her in October 2018 and sentenced her March 13 to three years in prison, with one year of home detention.
On Wednesday, Brown announced that she will run for Congress again — this time from prison.
Three simultaneous recounts took place in Virginia Beach, all for City Council races and all the result of narrow margins of victory. This was the first time in Virginia history that a city had to juggle multiple recounts.
“There has been no precedent in the commonwealth” for three recounts from the same city at the same time, said Judge Glenn Croshaw, who oversaw the recount along with two other judges. “We’re making history here.”
The recount eventually affirmed the elections’ winners, but that wasn’t the end of it.
David Nygaard’s election was overturned
Despite Nygaard defeating incumbent John Uhrin for the Beach District City Council seat, being declared the winner after a recount and eventually being sworn in — Nygaard was a member of City Council for only two-and-a-half months.
That’s because another three-judge panel ruled against him in a civil lawsuit brought by Uhrin that claimed Nygaard did not intend to establish a permanent home in the Beach District after renting an apartment on 20th Street in June 2018, just prior to the filing deadline. As a result, Nygaard was ordered to vacate his seat.
City Council must now appoint an interim-member to council until a special election in November.
Adding to the party
Del. Cheryl Turpin was sued for defamation in July 2018 by Scott Presler.
Presler claims Turpin damaged his reputation when she ran political ads claiming Presler was a neo-Nazi tied to hate groups. The lawsuit is ongoing.
Virginia Beach School Board
School Board member for the Rose Hall District Joel McDonald resigned after a bankruptcy forced him to move from his home, and out of the district he represented. Like members of City Council, School Board members must reside in the district where they were elected.
Out of the tumult — new regulations
Del. Joe Lindsey, who mainly represents Norfolk but also part of Virginia Beach, introduced legislation in January that would inject some predictability into future multiple recounts. The bill requires a recount court to issue a written order setting out the rules of procedures for a multiple simultaneous recount prior to its beginning.
The bill passed unanimously through both the House of Delegates and the state Senate. Gov. Ralph Northam signed the bill into law on March 14, and it will go into effect on July 1.
Another bill in the state Senate sought to add checks to the confirmation of petition signatures and related information.
State Sen. Lynwood Lewis represents much of the Eastern Shore, part of Norfolk, and a portion of Virginia Beach on the Chesapeake Bay. Lewis introduced legislation in January that charges the Board of Elections with creating a system for validating petition signatures, for tracking candidates petition information, and a clearer pathway for escalating allegations of petition fraud.
The bill passed both the Senate and the House. It requires the state Board of Elections to craft the regulations on or before Jan. 1, 2020. Northam is slated to sign the bill into law on Tuesday.