The Richmond Electoral Board on Monday night voted 2-1 to remove J. Kirk Showalter from her position as the city’s general registrar.
Of the three-member board, which has the power to remove a general registrar from office under state law, chairman James M. Nachman and vice-chairman Joyce K. Smith voted in favor of the move, while secretary C. Starlet Stevens opposed.
During the public portion of the meeting that lasted just over five hours, all of which Showalter was present for, members of the board did not give an explanation or provide reasons as to why the general registrar was being terminated.
When Smith delivered the motion to immediately remove Showalter, she said “for cause” but offered no other specifics.
The electoral board’s decision comes just days after Nachman told The Richmond Times-Dispatch that Showalter’s removal was “something that needs to be done.”
Most of the public comments heard in the meeting centered around Showalter with a mix of both support and opposition.
Showalter’s biggest allies came from fellow election officials in Goochland County.
“There are 133 registrars in Virginia tasked with running elections and we rely heavily on each other to get the job done,” said Ryan Mulligan, Goochland County General Registrar. “To lose a registrar with such institutional knowledge and that has been so active in the community will be detrimental to us.”
Robin Lind, secretary of the Goochland County Electoral Board, told the electoral board that he relies on Showalter for guidance and that his comments of support were mirrored by the secretaries of the Falls Church City and Isle of Wight County electoral boards.
The first person to speak against Showalter keeping her position was Virginia state Sen. Joe Morrissey (D-Richmond City).
“I have dealt with numerous registrars throughout the Commonwealth and I can say with absolute certitude that they work to help you get on the ballot,” Morrissey said. “My experience with Ms. Showalter was just the opposite.”
Morrissey also read from affidavits he had received from staff members at the Richmond registrar’s office that claimed Showalter had said racist things to black employees.
Another person who offered comments against the registrar was Amy Wentz, a city council candidate in the November elections. Wentz said that Showalter had failed to follow the mission statement of the registrar’s office and was disrespectful when Wentz brought up issues regarding the elections.
After public comments were over, the board went into a closed session to discuss the performance and disciplining of Showalter, which resulted in the aforementioned vote.
In November, the Democratic Party of Virginia (DPVA) sent a letter to the electoral board calling for Showalter to be removed or resign, alleging she had failed to comply with the Commonwealth’s open records laws as well as a new law that required the registrar to contact voters with omissions or mistakes on ballots before the election.
Showalter had served as the city’s registrar since 1995. In 2019, the electoral board re-appointed her to another four-year term overseeing elections.
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Jacob Taylor is a reporter at The Virginia Star and the Star News Digital Network. Follow Jacob on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Image “Richmond Electoral Board Meeting” by Richmond Electoral Board.