Virginia’s Democratic and Republican parties are bulking up their legal teams and are prepared to litigate the governor’s election Tuesday in a likely photo finish of the race.
The state political parties and campaigns for Republican Glenn Youngkin and Democrat Terry McAuliffe have enlisted heavyweight law firms to monitor the polls and election officials and to prepare for the types of courtroom showdowns that are increasingly a staple of U.S. elections.
One Virginia Republican Party official said the Election Day voter integrity operation “is the biggest in state history.”
The legal maneuvering is understandable because the race is neck and neck and is playing out with new election laws. This is the first election since Virginia adopted some voting laws, including 45 days of no-excuse early voting, early voting on Sundays and prepaid postage for absentee ballots.
Lawsuits from both sides and their allies have been filed in anticipation of challenges to how soon ballots were delivered to voters, filled out, cast and later handled by election officials.
One legal action was filed on Oct. 20 by the Public Interest Legal Foundation, a conservative organization representing election integrity activists in Fairfax County. The lawsuit claims that election officials in the county accepted hundreds of absentee and mail-in ballot requests that do not have the last four digits of a voter’s Social Security number, as required under state law.
The lawsuit in Fairfax was filed weeks after the county board of supervisors asked Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, to waive the witness signature requirement for absentee ballots cast by mail.
Within days, the Democratic Party of Virginia filed a lawsuit arguing that local branches of the U.S. Postal Service did not process and deliver election-related material in time for more than 300,000 Virginians to cast their ballots by the deadline.
The legal action focuses on three heavily Democratic areas — Albemarle, Portsmouth and James City — where Democrats say the delay is “significant” and particularly “egregious.”
“Thousands of absentee ballots currently sit at postal facilities throughout the commonwealth, unprocessed for weeks on end,” the lawsuit states.
In this case, the state Democratic Party is represented by the Elias Law Group, a firm headed by longtime Democratic elections attorney and activist Marc Elias. Mr. Elias opened his law firm in late August when he left the powerful Washington law office of Perkins Coie after nearly three decades. He brought with him over 13 lawyers, including 10 partners.
Republicans were blindsided during the 2020 presidential election cycle when legal teams headed by Mr. Elias filed at least 32 lawsuits in 19 states over election laws. Some of the cases led to the change of election laws in key states, including Pennsylvania, Michigan and Arizona.
After the election, President Trump and his allies encouraged Republican-led state legislatures to perform audits of the ballots and enact laws to mandate voter photo ID and ban ballot harvesting.
Republicans pumped up their voter integrity teams on national and state levels for the next big fight — Virginia, where Mr. McAuliffe and Mr. Youngkin are locked in a razor-close race.
Chairman Rich Anderson said the state Republican Party has “a substantial legal presence” around the commonwealth.
“We have an election integrity team of 11 full-time people. The chief of that team, he’s our statewide elections integrity director. He is a lawyer that’s steeped in elections law,” Mr. Anderson told The Washington Times.
“Besides this elections integrity team, we have assembled a fairly sizable team of attorneys who will in effect man a war room in a central location and be prepared to respond throughout the day to any irregularities reported at a given poll. And likewise, throughout the night during the counting,” he said.
The Democratic Party of Virginia and the McAuliffe campaign refused to give The Washington Times details of their in-house legal operation.
Mr. Youngkin, who called the 2020 election results “certifiably fair,” is ready for a legal fight if he and his campaign team think there are discrepancies, Mr. Anderson said.
“I think if there is even the faintest discernment that anything improper has occurred, that there are irregularities. I can tell you that Republicans are in a fighting mood,” he said. “The Youngkin Team said they expect this is going to be a fair election, but if they discern that it’s not, they’re not going to roll over and play dead if they discern any wrongdoing is taking place.”