According to allegations made by former Assistant Voter Registrar Sharon Marchelya, former Registrar David Andrews was abrasive in his treatment of students who attempted to register to vote and exploited the city’s reimbursement policies to cash in on rebates for office supplies.
Andrews was fired by the city in April 2007 for undisclosed reasons. Andrews, contacted by phone, declined to comment.
“I believe a registrar should encourage registration,” Marchelya said. “Mr. Andrews discouraged registration, particularly among students.”
Andrews and the student body frequently clashed during his tenure as registrar, as he changed his policy on the student voting registration.
The most egregious example of Andrews’ misconduct in regards to student voting, according to Marchelya, involved the efforts of Aaron Garrett J.D. ’09 to register prior to the 2006 election.
After not receiving his registration card in the following weeks, Garrett called Andrews to inquire about the status of his registration.
According to Marchelya and Garrett, Andrews told Garrett that because he had written only his middle initial, he had been denied registration.
“He was completely uncooperative with me,” Garrett said.
Garrett then sued Andrews for the right to vote, a judge decided in Garrett’s favor, and Andrews relented, saying he would add Garrett’s name to the eligible voter log.
According to Garrett, his name had not been added to the voter log when he arrived at the polling location on election day.
Although Garrett was eventually added to the log and was able to vote that day, Marchelya found it odd that a student who had taken his right to vote to court would not be immediately added to the voter log.
Prior to Andrews’ placement on administrative leave by the city’s electoral board, students frequently faced an uphill battle in their efforts to register.
According to Marchelya, students seeking to register were “interrogated.”
“I think many times he went beyond the normal questions that should be asked of a [temporary] resident,” Marchelya said. “He interpreted the law the way he wanted to interpret it.”
Virginia law allows registrars to make judgment calls when defining the word “domicile.” Registrars are permitted to ask questions of potential voters to determine their intent to make that town or county their permanent residence.
“He can, and has a right, to ask questions of temporary residents,” Marchelya said. “It went beyond what I thought was necessary.”
Student Assembly Vice President Zach Pilchen ’09 was one of several students who went through Andrews in their efforts to vote. Although Pilchen was granted a registration card, it was for “0 Ukrops Dr.,” a nonexistent address.
According to Marchelya, registration forms were frequently misplaced, making it unclear whether some citizens, many of them students, had been registered.
“[Andrews] would say they were denied if they never received forms,” Marchelya said.
In a memo sent in July 2007 to Mayor Jeanne Zeidler, the electoral board, current Registrar Winifred Sowder and Pilchen, Marchelya said, “I first began noticing things in the office that I was uncomfortable with in August .”
Marchelya met with Pilchen and Matt Beato ’09 in July 2007 to tell them of her concerns.
“I didn’t want to jump the gun on her,” Pilchen said when asked why he did not make the information public. “I wasn’t even planning on talking about this.”
According to Marchelya, Andrews may have also exploited reimbursements on office supplies to cash in on various rebates.
“Many, many, many … rebates were found. I found them. Williamsburg police found them,” Marchelya said. “There was no accountability of what supplies were going in or out of that office.”
Prior to Andrews being placed on administrative leave, the Finance Department contacted Marchelya regarding a misplaced shredder for which she said Andrews had been reimbursed, and Andrews was unable to produce the shredder.
According to the memo, Marchelya made her concerns known to the Electoral Board as early as October 2006.
It is unclear whether an investigation into Andrews’ conduct has taken place.
Former Head of the Electoral Board Marilyn McGinty, who directly oversaw Andrews’ appointment, declined to comment.
“I’m not playing that game anymore,” McGinty said.
Current Electoral Board member Thomas Mainor also declined to comment, but said that anything concerning Andrews was being taken care of by either City Manager Jack Tuttle or City Attorney Joe Phillips.
Tuttle declined to comment.
As of press time, Phillips could not be reached for comment.