Voter had filed application for registration on time, but officials failed to process it.The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia today filed a formal grievance with the Virginia State Board of Elections on behalf of Jonathan Piper, the Chesterfield County voter whose provisional ballot was not counted during last week’s primary election.
Piper had filed his voter registration application at DMV prior to the statutory deadline, but it was never processed, leading Chesterfield Registrar Lawrence C. Haake, III to refuse to count Piper’s ballot.
Haake is apparently the only registrar in Virginia who refuses to count such ballots. With support from the Attorney General, the State Board of Elections has made it clear that qualified voters should not be penalized because the state makes a mistake during the registration process. All other registrars in the state seem to be following the Board’s recommendations.
On Election Day last week, the ACLU of Virginia asked Haake to count the ballots of qualified voters who applied to register at DMV in a timely manner, but whose applications were not processed by the registration deadline. Haake refused, but his decision affected only one voter (Piper).
The ACLU is concerned, however, that Haake’s practice could affect a significant number of voters in the November general elections, when much greater turnout is expected.
According to Virginia law, one of the duties of registrars is to “encourage registration.”
“It boggles the mind that a registrar in this day and age would defy state and federal law in order to prevent votes from being counted,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis. “Haake’s position is anti-voter and anti-democracy, and is wholly inconsistent with the registrar’s job.”
In its letter, the ACLU contends that Haake’s policy unequivocally violates voters’ rights as laid out in the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), Virginia election law, and the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). Although no formal decision has been made to take legal action, the NVRA requires that notification be given to the state’s chief election official before a private lawsuit may be brought to enforce the statute.
A copy of the grievance letter from ACLU of Virginia legal director to the State Board of Elections is found at http://acluva.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/20050624-Chesterfield-Ballot-NVRA-Letter.pdf.
ACLU of Virginia Contacts: Kent Willis, Executive Director Rebecca Glenberg, Legal Director 804-644-8022