A local real estate developer is now one of the top election officials in Virginia. Clara Belle Wheeler was approved by the General Assembly last week as the newest member of the State Board of Elections, which oversees the work of local electoral boards and registrars.
Wheeler, a Republican who until this month was the chair of the Albemarle County Board of Elections, confirmed she was the Virginia GOP’s pick for one of two open positions on the three-member state board. Typically, two members of the governor’s party are appointed to four-year terms, along with one member of the opposing party.
As a local official, Wheeler has been vocal about concerns over voter fraud, a controversial and highly partisan issue in Virginia and elsewhere. In a 2012, she photocopied county jury questionnaires in an effort to find people claiming exemptions that should have also disqualified them from voting—an action the local Commonwealth’s attorney pointed out is illegal, and Wheeler said was an honest mistake. Wheeler said she’ll take her focus on keeping elections “free, fair and legal” with her to Richmond, where she said she wants to prioritize education.
“Being an election officer is a very important responsibility,” she said. “The electoral officers are standing in the precincts…and they are sworn to uphold the law. That means everyone who is supposed to vote votes, and everyone who is not supposed to vote does not. And they have to know the law. They have to be educated.”
But she stressed she won’t bring politics into the equation. The minute Electoral Board members are sworn in, she said, “their party hat is supposed to be put in the corner.”
Local circuit court judges are responsible for replacing Wheeler on the county electoral board. Retired Coca-Cola sales vice president and Habitat for Humanity board member Peter Wurzer has been nominated and is under consideration, Wheeler said.