WASHINGTON — A man who was being paid to register voters by the Republican Party of Virginia was arrested Thursday after he was seen dumping eight registration forms into a trash bin.
Colin Small, 31, was working as a supervisor as part of a registration operation in eight swing states financed by the Republican National Committee. Small, of Phoenixville, Pa., was first hired by Strategic Allied Consulting, a firm that was fired by the party after suspect voter forms surfaced in Florida and other states.
The owner of a store in Harrisonburg, Va., told a local television station that he became suspicious when he saw a car with Pennsylvania plates dump an envelope in back of his store. He recovered the envelope and alerted authorities.
“He made a mistake and he’s being charged with it, which we fully support,” said Sean Spicer, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee. The committee paid more than $3 million to state committees to finance the get-out-the-vote operation.
Strategic Allied is owned by Nathan Sproul, an Arizona political consultant for Republicans whose companies have faced charges in past elections of submitting forged forms and of dumping Democratic registrations. None of the charges were proved, and Sproul continues to do get-out-the-vote work for conservative causes this election.
“We can’t speculate what happened in Virginia,” said David Leibowitz, a spokesman for Sproul, adding that the firm was fired on Sept. 28. “Anything that happened after that did not happen on Strategic Allied’s watch.”
After Sproul was dumped, the registration operation that he assembled continued working under the supervision of party officials, Spicer said. He said the workers will continue to do get-out-the-vote work until the election.
Spicer said that once the accusations were made about dumping registration forms, the employee was immediately fired. He has said that the Republican National Committee had “zero tolerance” for potential fraud.
It’s not clear why the forms ended up in the dumpster; in Virginia, the voter form doesn’t list a party affiliation.
Three of the voters turned out to be already registered, according to Donald Palmer, secretary of the Virginia State Board of Elections. The other five were not registered, and have since been added to the voter roll. Registration closed on Monday.
In Virginia, and other states, it’s a crime to accept a voter registration form and not turn it in. Small is charged with destroying voter registration applications and obstruction of justice.
“There is no indication this activity was widespread in our jurisdiction,” said a statement from the Rockingham County Sheriff’s Office. The investigation is continuing, the sheriff’s office said.
A criminal investigation also is under way in Florida, where election supervisors in 10 counties found suspect forms tied to the Republican Party.