Groups says city must at least allow all voters who live in district to cast ballotsIn a letter faxed this morning to Alexandria city manager Philip Sunderland, the ACLU of Virginia says that a court-approved plan for a special election to fill a vacancy on the school board illegally excludes some voters from casting ballots.
Last year, when the state government redrew House, Senate and congressional districts using the 2000 census data, Alexandria revamped its voting precinct boundaries. Alexandria , however, did not redraw the boundaries for school board districts at that time, presumably because no elections were scheduled until 2003. As a result, the new voting precinct lines do not conform with the existing school district lines.
When school board member Dan Goldhaber resigned recently, the city was required by law to obtain a circuit court order for a special election. At the behest of city officials, the judge addressed the problem of nonconforming precinct and school board boundaries by making a list of precincts that would comprise the school district for purposes of the special election. The result is that some voters who live within the school district boundaries but whose precinct is not among those enumerated by the judge will not be allowed to vote.
"The election plan submitted by Alexandria and approved by the court prohibits some qualified voters who live in the school district from casting their votes, " said ACLU of Virginia executive director Kent Willis. "The plan not only steals the constitutional right to vote from these citizens, but it also defies common sense."
"There may be more than one way to fix this problem," added Willis. "The city can simply allow all the voters who live within the school district boundaries to vote in the upcoming election, regardless of what precinct they are in. Or it may be that the city should redraw the school district lines using the 2000 census. The ACLU is not in a position at this time to know which remedy is most appropriate for Alexandria . What we do know is that the special election cannot proceed under the current plan."
The letter from Willis and ACLU of Virginia legal director Rebecca Glenberg to the Alexandria city manager and other city officials is found at http://acluva.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/20020130-Alexandria-Voting.pdf.
Contacts: Kent Willis, Executive Director, ACLU of Virginia Rebecca K.Glenberg, Legal Director, ACLU of Virginia 804-644-8022