NATIONAL NEWS

Last remaining charge dropped against Virginia elections official

Jan 3, 2024, 1:20 PM

MANASSAS, Va. (AP) — Prosecutors have dropped the last remaining charge against a northern Virginia elections official who had been accused of misconduct related to the 2020 elections.

A judge on Monday formally dismissed a misdemeanor charge of willful neglect of duty against Michele White, the former registrar in Prince William County, a suburb outside the nation’s capital, after prosecutors requested the dismissal.

The most serious charges against White had already been dismissed. The Virginia Attorney General’s Office said it was forced to drop felony charges of corrupt conduct and making a false statement because a key witness had revised their testimony.

White was indicted back in 2022, and the office of Republican Attorney General Jason Miyares never spelled out publicly or in court papers exactly what it alleged White did wrong. Court records indicated only generally that the allegations had to do with 2020 election results, and county officials said back when White was indicted only that the alleged discrepancies in vote totals would not have affected the outcome of any race.

Assistant Attorney General James Herring declined comment on the case after Monday’s hearing.

White’s attorney, Zachary Stafford, said after the dismissal that the government’s case amounted to a hodgepodge of complaints “and the underlying theme was that Ms. White was bad at her job.”

He said the allegations ranged from trivial — that she moved her office to a different building — to a serious allegation that she reported incorrect results in the presidential race from the county’s central absentee precinct. Stafford said that allegation “was subsequently disproven by a Commonwealth witness.”

“(T)he evidence is clear that Ms. White did not commit any crimes during her tenure as Registrar in Prince William County, and the Attorney General’s office wisely dropped the charges,” Stafford said in a written statement. “This process has been traumatic for Ms. White, and today’s dismissal is just the first step towards recovering from that trauma. Ms. White was a dedicated public servant, and the evidence shows that she conducted an accurate election in 2020.”

The case against White is the only criminal prosecution brought thus far by a special Election Integrity Unit Miyares formed in 2022, with as many as 20 lawyers assigned to the unit.

“I pledged during the 2021 campaign to work to increase transparency and strengthen confidence in our state elections. It should be easy to vote, and hard to cheat. The Election Integrity Unit will work to help to restore confidence in our democratic process in the Commonwealth,” Miyares said when the unit was formed.

In White’s case, prosecutors insinuated that the case fell apart because a witness in the county’s elections office “conveniently” changed their testimony to the detriment of the government’s case.

At Monday’s hearing, Judge Carroll Weimer asked if the government was implying that there were “shenanigans” that caused the government’s case to collapse.

Herring maintained that he considered some of the witnesses’ revisions to their testimony “convenient” but said that he had no reason to believe that White was responsible for those revisions.

White’s attorney disputes that the witness’ testimony was inconsistent.

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Last remaining charge dropped against Virginia elections official