VA Democrats try to stop duplicate voters purge with lawsuit
By Kathryn Watson / October 3, 2013 / No Comments
STOP THE PURGE! The Democratic Party of Virginia has filed a lawsuit saying Virginia officials could potentially be wrongly taking people off the registration rolls before Nov. 5.
By Kathryn Watson | Watchdog.org, Virginia Bureau
ALEXANDRIA — Weeks before a contentious gubernatorial election, at least 300,000 registered Virginia voters are also registered in another state.
But Virginia Democrats want to make sure local registrars don’t mistakenly remove a single legitimate voter from registration rolls before Nov. 5.
With a lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, the Democratic Party of Virginia is accusing Virginia election officials, Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell of potentially wrongly purging voters from registration rolls.
Using never-before-available data as part of an interstate voter registration crosschecking project with more than 20 other states, the State Board of Elections on Aug. 23 asked local Virginia registrars to review the more than 300,000 possible duplicate voters before Oct. 1.
With no set-in-stone requirement or penalties, some registrars complied before the Tuesday deadline, while others are waiting until after Nov. 5.
As Watchdog.org has previously reported, the number of possible duplicate voters is likely far higher than 300,000. Just half of the nation’s states participated in the Interstate Voter Crosscheck Program, and neighboring Maryland and Washington, D.C., weren’t part of it.
Democrats say the crosschecking list is “replete with errors.” In their lawsuit, which calls for an injunction of any purging, Democrats say state officials have told local registrars to use their best judgement in purging either now or later, meaning voters may be treated differently depending on their jurisdiction. And that, Democrats say, violates constitutional guarantees of equal protection.
The lawsuit says Republicans want to use the interstate program to suppress votes, especially in communities that traditionally vote blue.
“At best, defendants’ conduct reflects inadvertent sloppiness in attempting to ensure that unqualified voters do not vote in Virginia’s election. At worst, the conduct is driven by partisan politics,” says the lawsuit, a copy of which was obtained by Watchdog.org.
But just like Democrats say voter registration review is politics, Chris LaCivita, a chief adviser to the Cuccinelli campaign, called the Democrats’ lawsuit a “politically motivated stunt.”
“Under Virginia law no one is denied the right to vote,” he told the Associated Press. “Apparently, Democrats have a problem with local registrars doing their jobs.”
Brian Gottstein, communications director for Cuccinelli in his attorney general capacity, spoke out along similar lines.
“Suing the attorney general is a shameless stunt, as under the law, he is clearly not an appropriate party to the lawsuit,” Gottstein said in an emailed statement. “He has had no personal communication with the state board or its legal counsel about the subject of this lawsuit.
For now, the SBE is in a holding pattern.
“At this time, we are waiting to receive the lawsuit so that it may be reviewed,” said Nikki Sheridan, confidential policy adviser for the SBE.
Reagan George, president of the Virginia Voters Alliance, supports purging the rolls before the Nov. 5 election.
George said he would rather see three people mistakenly removed from the rolls than dozens commit voter fraud — especially since provisional ballots are available for those who need them. The truly disenfranchised, George said, are military members who don’t get absentee ballots in time.
“Their votes get suppressed,” George said last week in an interview with Watchdog.org. “I don’t hear the Democrats complaining about that. But if we accidentally take somebody off the rolls, oh my gosh, my hair’s on fire.”
— Kathryn Watson is a reporter with Watchdog.org’s Virginia Bureau, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
, or (571) 385-0773.
Here’s the data straight from the State Board of Elections on possible duplicate voters.
Possible Duplicate Registrations
South Carolina 30,001
South Dakota 1,135
Grand Total 308,579 http://watchdog.org/108744/va-democrats-try-to-stop-duplicate-voters-purge-with-lawsuit/