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Richmond Electoral Board appoints new top election official, months after removing Kirk Showalter

Richmond Electoral Board appoints new top election official, months after removing Kirk Showalter

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The Richmond Electoral Board has appointed Keith Balmer as the city’s new general registrar after ousting the former registrar in February.

The board voted 2-1 Tuesday night to appoint Balmer to a four-year term as the city’s top election official. Joyce Smith, the board’s vice chair, voted against his appointment.

Members of the board said Balmer previously worked for the city’s election office and is currently a liaison to local registrars for the Virginia Department of Elections.

“He’s come full circle. He started at the bottom and he’s worked his way up,” said Starlet Stevens, the electoral board’s secretary. “He has a lot of knowledge of what goes on in the election process.”

Balmer, 45, was one of four finalists selected from a field of more than a dozen candidates.

Richmond Electoral Board Chairman Jim Nachman said Balmer also worked as assistant registrar in Alexandria before returning to Richmond a few years ago.

“I think he’ll work well with the staff and the general public. He’ll be customer-friendly, open and transparent,” he said. “That was important to us.”

The electoral board removed former Registrar Kirk Showalter after complaints from the Democratic Party of Virginia and others. The party sued Showalter days before last November’s election for alleged violations of the state’s open records law. The party called for Showalter’s removal later in November, citing concerns raised in the lawsuit and a COVID-19 outbreak in the election office that month.

Virginia registrars are appointed by a local three-member electoral board. Circuit court judges appoint the board members, but state law requires that two members of the board belong to the same party as the governor, so local party officials typically recommend candidates for appointment.

Showalter, a former state budget analyst, had held the city’s general registrar position since 1995. The electoral board reappointed her to another four-year term in 2019, putting her in charge of maintaining the city’s list of registered voters and administering elections.

In the days following the November election, several Richmond City Council local candidates complained about Showalter, saying she was rude or unresponsive to their questions and concerns about preliminary results and vote counting processes.

Allegations of racist remarks and disregard for COVID-19 safety restrictions surfaced in the following months.

When reached Wednesday, Showalter declined to comment due to potential litigation.

Stevens, who voted against Showalter’s removal, said she still feels the board acted inappropriately in removing her. While she and local Republican Party officials have filed complaints to state elections officials, Stevens said the local election office must maintain stability as the June 8 primary and Nov. 2 general election are just months away.

jnocera@timesdispatch.com Twitter: @jessmnocera

csuarez@timesdispatch.com (804) 649-6178

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