On Election Day, Nov. 5, Ernest McGregor, an election official at Southampton Baptist Church, confiscated pens printed with write-in instructions for Grimm from voters as they arrived.
Kirk Showalter, the city registrar, says McGregor merely "overexuberantly interpreted" the state law that prohibits campaigning inside a polling place. The election board stopped the practice as soon as it found out, Showalter says, adding that voting machines already have instructions for how to write in a candidate.
But John Girardi, a voter who called the election board to complain, says the instructions were missing. The official took the pens until 4:30 p.m., he says. He points out that McGregor lives across the street from Brooks.
The incident "undeniably cost me votes," Grimm says. Brooks, however, says he witnessed Grimm's "very aggressive" supporters following voters to within 40 feet of the polls, violating election laws.
Brooks won the election with 52 percent of the votes, 3,392; Grimm received 3,117 write-in votes, about 48 percent.
Grimm also says a flyer mailed to voters two days before Election Day unfairly influenced voters to vote for Brooks.
The red-and-black card reads, "The Crusade for Voters Endorses " and shows a picture of Grimm between council members Reva Trammell and Sa'ad El-Amin. "You can tell a lot about a person by the company he keeps," the card states.
The card misled voters about the Crusade's agenda as well, says former Crusade president Melvin Law. The Crusade endorsed Grimm, he says, but it did not send the mailing.
"It was certainly a scare tactic," Grimm says, "and with racism involved because this was a largely black organization that supported me."
Grimm says he confronted Brooks about the card on Election Day. "I said, 'Joe, I think this is a pretty dirty trick sending these out,'" Grimm recounts. But Brooks says he had nothing to do with the flyer and doesn't know who created it.
Who did? The flyer claims it was paid for and authorized by Virginians for Responsible Government, a registered political action committee. But Ken Hutcheson, the committee's executive director, says his group works to re-elect five state senators and has nothing to do with city elections. Someone else usurped the name without permission, Hutcheson says. "If anyone else is using that, they're in violation of state election laws."
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