The Romney campaign has asked the state of Virginia to investigate voter registration efforts by the nonprofit Voter Participation Center. The story has been playing out this week in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, with the Romney campaign making its request and the Voter Participation Center responding that it could discourage voter registration drives.
Today, the paper runs the story of a disenfranchised felon who illegally registered to vote and then voted, in 2008, after getting an already filled-out form from the Voter Participation Center. The center has had some mishaps, with its forms mailed to dead folks and dogs and so on.
In the case of the Virginia felon, the person pledged that she had reviewed and met state requirements for voting. She signed the form, sent it in and voted. She was then prosecuted for voter fraud by now State Senator Thomas A. Garrett Jr., and sentenced to 10 years with all the time suspended. From the Times-Dispatch:
Garrett said he believes Nicholson and another felon he prosecuted for illegally registering to vote were essentially duped into breaking the law.
"They knew they weren't supposed to do it," Garrett said. "But when people start soliciting you to do it, it's almost like an entrapment sort of thing. I believe sincerely that if people hadn't solicited them to register, they wouldn't have done it."
For what it's worth, Virginia's voter registration form is readily available online (pdf); it asks whether you are a felon and, if so, whether your voting rights have been restored. And for broader context, it's hard telling how many eligible Virginians are not registered to vote and thus could be helped by registration drives -- at first glance, it appears to be many thousands.