A voter fraud investigation has come to a close as Andrew Spieles pled guilty to illegally registering deceased Virginians to vote in last year's election.
It all started with a call from a concerned constituent who received a voter registration notice in the mail for their deceased relative. The family of Richard Claybrook, Senior, was "deeply disturbed" that someone was trying to register him to vote, even though he passed away in 2014. The family notified the Harrisonburg General Registrar's office, which prompted an internal investigation. Office workers began looking through other voter registration forms and noticed more fraudulent submissions. The case was ultimately referred to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and investigators were able to track the fraudulent voter registrations to one person: Andrew Spieles.
According to court documents
, Spieles worked for an organization called HarrisburgVOTES. The organization's stated mission is to encourage young people to register to vote and increase the number of registered voters in the city to 25,000. At the time, Andrew Spieles was paid $350 a week to register new voters.
When originally confronted by police on August 15, 2016, Spieles denied submitting the fraudulent forms. However, the next day, he confided with a witness that he had in fact committed at least 18 instances of voter registration fraud. By August 24, Spieles confessed the entire voter fraud scheme to investigators. The police report detailed the entire confession.
Spieles stated that he fabricated registration forms by using the name and address from the walk sheets, creating a birth year by calculating backwards from the age listed on the walk sheet, randomly picking a month and day for the birthday, and created fictitious social security numbers."
On May 22, 2017, Spieles signed a plea deal, agreeing to plead guilty to one count of knowingly submitting a fraudulent voter registration form. The charge carries a fine of up to $100,000 and/or imprisonment for a term not to exceed one year.
On June 20, Andrew Spieles formally pled guilty to the charge. While the plea deal includes only one count of submitting fraudulent voter registration forms, he admitted to forging voter documents a total of 18 times. Now that the plea has been entered, sentencing is scheduled for August 8, and the terms of the plea agreement recommend that Spieles be sentenced to 100-120 days in jail. Ultimately, it will be up to the judge whether to accept the recommended sentence or to choose his own punishment.
Last year, the Democratic Party of Virginia brought suit against the Commonwealth's voter ID law. However, in April, Federal Judge Henry E. Hudson dismissed the suit and upheld Virginia's voter integrity laws.
While the merits of this voter identification law, and indeed all aspects of Virginia’s voting regime, can be reasonably debated," Judge Hudson wrote in his decision, "it remains true that Virginia has created a scheme of laws to accommodate all people in their right to vote. From in-person voting, to an absentee option, to provisional ballots with the ability to cure, and the provision of free voter IDs, Virginia has provided all of its citizens with an equal opportunity to participate in the electoral process."
When the lawsuit was originally filed, lawyers for the Commonwealth's Democratic Party argued that voter ID requirements were unnecessary because there was no evidence of voter fraud. With Spieles' plea agreement, it is unclear whether they will make the same argument on appeal.