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.
Contact Brooke Blaney at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Corrections: An earlier version of this article stated that The Breeze has chosen to withhold the name of the student "until a conviction occurs." This has been corrected to say "until a charge occurs," since no suspects have yet been charged in the course of the investigation.
An earlier version of this article said Joe Fitzgerald is a professor and PR coordinator. This has been changed to accurately reflect Fitzgerald's position, which is the technology coordinator for the Dean's office in the College of Arts and Letters.