HARRISONBURG — Authorities say a James Madison University student confessed that he acted on his own for nonpolitical personal reasons when he filed voter registration applications in the names of dead people, not on behalf of the voter registration organization he worked for.
But two sources close to the FBI and Harrisonburg Police Department investigation said Thursday that agents are continuing to carefully examine all applications turned in since February by the HarrisonburgVotes registration-drive organization, “just to be thorough.”
HarrisonburgVotes co-founder Joe Fitzgerald identified the student as senior political science major Andrew Spieles. One of the sources close to the investigation confirmed the identity of the suspect. Fitzgerald said he fired the student immediately after the suspect confessed on Aug. 15, and contacted authorities the following day.
“He’s smart, and he understands the [political] process,” said Fitzgerald, a prominent local Democratic politician who founded HarrisonburgVotes with lawyer Tom Domonoske, a member of the nonpartisan Harrisonburg School Board. “Who the hell knows what his motivations were?”
An attempt to reach the student through a Facebook page in the name of Andrew J. Spieles, a member of the Virginia Young Democrats, was unsuccessful, as were attempts to reach him at a phone number and email address listed on a JMU online directory in the name of Andrew James Spieles.
A Harrisonburg lawyer believed to represent the suspect would not confirm or deny that he is counsel for the student.
One of the highly placed sources said the investigation began when the Harrisonburg Registrar’s Office alerted authorities to suspicious applications.
It remains unclear who, if anyone, will be charged. City Director of Elections Deborah Logan said she will turn in all applications found to be false to the Harrisonburg Electoral Board so that they can be disqualified.
The investigation was first revealed Monday by Logan at an Electoral Board meeting, and the involvement of an unnamed student was first reported on Thursday by The Breeze, JMU’s student newspaper.