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Amanda Chase is stumping for Youngkin as she calls for 50-state election audit

Woman speaksing
State Sen. Amanda Chase (R-Midlothian) speaks in from of supporters of an audit of Virginia's elections. (Photo: Ben Paviour/VPM News)

Republican Glenn Youngkin’s moves to distance himself from false claims of election fraud as he runs for Virginia governor have become complicated by one of his main surrogates: State Sen. Amanda Chase (R-Midlothian).

Courts tossed over 60 challenges to the 2020 election results brought by former President Donald Trump and his allies. Experts called last year’s election fair and secure, but Chase has continued to focus on false fraud allegations. In August, she formed a national “Election Integrity Caucus” with like minded Trump supporters to push for audits in all 50 states, modeled after an effort in Arizona that election experts say was riddled with disinformation.

Chase stumped for Youngkin on Monday in Martinsville and is slated to appear alongside him again in Chesterfield on Friday. In Martinsville, the self-described “Trump in heels” led her speech by saying electing Youngkin is “the single most important thing that we can do to protect election integrity.” She noted that the governor had the power to appoint three members of the State Board of Elections, with two coming from the governor’s party.

Youngkin made “election integrity” his top issue as a candidate in the GOP convention and refused to say if Biden’s election was legitimate. After his win, he repeatedly acknowledged Biden’s legitimacy and said in a debate last month with former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, the Democrat in the race, that he believed the 2020 elections were fair.

Still, Youngkin refused to tell Axios last month whether he would have voted to certify Biden’s election victory. His campaign later clarified that he would have done so. At least two GOP Congressman who voted against certifying -- Rep. Morgan Griffin (R-9th) and Rep. Ben Cline (R-6th) -- have stumped for Youngkin in recent weeks. Trump endorsed Youngkin in June and has warned of fraud, without citing evidence, in the upcoming vote.

On Tuesday, Politico and other outlets reported on comments Youngkin made to The Richmond Crusade for Voters calling for annual audits of voting machines. Trump's fundraising arm sent out a press release on Wednesday night with a link to an article on the topic and a call for donations.

Virginia registrars are already required to test voting machines before elections and to notify and invite local party leaders to watch; they also conduct a statewide audit of ballots after the vote. David Becker, director of the Center for Election Innovation & Research in Washington DC, said that the commonwealth is seen as a national leader in the field. “Virginia has exceptional professional election administration, whether it be in Republican administrations or Democratic,” Becker said in an interview in July.

Youngkin campaign spokesman Matt Wolking said Youngkin was referring to the existing state auditing process of voting machines. 

“As Glenn Youngkin said in February, he believes audits are a best practice when it comes to administering elections—just as audits are a routine best practice in the business world—and he will ensure Virginia continues to conduct audits going forward and that they are thorough, efficient, and accurate,” Wolking said in a statement.

The campaign has also noted that McAuliffe fundraised for Hilary Clinton, who has called Trump an “ illegitimate” president.

Manuel Bonder, a spokesperson for the Democratic Party of Virginia, connected Youngkin’s rhetoric to Trump.

“Glenn Youngkin is calling for audits of Virginia’s voting machines for the same reason he based his entire campaign on his ‘election integrity task force’ –– this is who he is,” Bonder said.

Republican distrust of elections has remained a persistent theme even after it helped spark the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Virginia Republican Party chairman Rich Anderson condemned the deadly violence that day, saying as a veteran, he was “disturbed beyond measure.”

But in a Facebook post in a private GOP group the next day, Anderson said he’d spoken to Virginia Republicans who were present at the Capitol and struck a different note: “According to these eyewitness accounts from individuals who I know and trust, this group appeared to employ the signature strategies and tactics of antifa and other leftist groups who trafficked in violence across the country last summer,” Anderson said, while noting that it was too early to pass final judgement on the matter.

While that accusation reverberated on conservative media, there’s no evidence linking antifa members to the insurrection and it’s been refuted by the FBI. In an email Wednesday, Anderson said that “in the days immediately following January 6, I very clearly and unequivocally condemned the violence that occurred on that day” and claimed Democrats were raising the issue “as a means to distract from the fact that their disastrous track record for the last eight years.”

Sen. Chase addressed Trump supporters at the rally but said she left before it turned violent. Later that month, she was censured by the state Senate, including three Republicans, for statements that included a statement calling rioters “patriots.” She continued to claim the election was stolen during the GOP gubernatorial primary and led rallies calling for audits in Virginia this summer. Chase told the conservative news network OAN that the new audits should be modeled on Arizona, where election experts said auditors “ made up the numbers” but still confirmed Biden’s win.

“I really think it was the gold standard, and many other states can emulate and follow,” Chase said in an interview last month.

Mark Daniel, a chair of the New Kent County GOP Committee and member of the GOP’s State Central Committee, said he was on good terms with the county’s election officials and trusted them to hold a fair vote -- a statewide blowout for the GOP ticket, he predicted.

Still, Daniel shared some of Chase’s concerns around the last election. Daniel suggested the rights of the alleged Jan. 6 rioters had been violated -- a point he made in a July committee meeting -- and said the audit proposed by the state senator had some support at the grassroots level.

“I know that's on the mind of a lot of our members,” Daniel said. 

Chase is slated to appear at a “Take Back Virginia'' fundraiser in Glen Allen next week with Winsome Sears, the GOP nominee for lieutenant governor. Other guests include former Trump advisors Steven Bannon and Jason Miller. Bannon told his War Room podcast listeners that he expected to have 20,000 “shock troops” to help “deconstruct” the federal government when a Republican takes over the White House in 2024.

“We control the country,” Bannon said. “We’ve got to start acting like it.

Ben Paviour covers courts and criminal justice for VPM News with a focus on accountability.