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Law Grants Virginia AG Power To Prosecute Election Laws

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Virginia attorneys general would have the power to investigate and prosecute violations of election laws under legislation that has been approved by the state Senate.

Attorneys general can assist local prosecutors at the request of the State Board of Elections. Under this bill, even if local prosecutors decline to enforce an election law, the attorney general could launch an independent investigation.

Sen. Donald McEachin proposed an amendment to remove that broad power, and instead grant authority to conduct probes into whether a crime is part of an organized activity.

"I don't believe it's appropriate to have an attorney general just investigating willy-nilly," says McEachin. "But where there has been a crime committed, someone's been arrested or someone's been indicted, I think we do want the attorney general to investigate the matter."

Sen. Tom Garrett prosecuted two voter fraud cases as Louisa County commonwealth's attorney. He says the law is necessary because some similar cases referred by the State Police were not prosecuted elsewhere.

"Where you have the commonwealth's attorneys who are handed evidence by the State Police in 194 cases statewide based primarily upon the political inclinations of the locality or the affiliation of the commonwealth attorney, where you have those commonwealth's attorneys choosing not to enforce Virginia s laws, that's why this bill is needed," Garrett says.

The amendment was defeated by Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling s tie-breaking vote. The measure now goes to the Governor.

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