Civil liberties group says it is not voter’s fault if DMV or Board of Elections misplaced form failed to complete registration process in timeChesterfield County, VA -- The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia has asked Chesterfield County registrar Lawrence C. Haake III to count the ballots of qualified voters who applied to register at DMV prior to the state’s deadline, but whose applications were not processed by the registration deadline. Although Haake’s policy affected only one voter in Tuesday’s primary, the same policy could affect a large number of voters in the November general elections, when turnout is expected to be much greater.
Under Virginia law, voters are allowed to cast provisional ballots on Election Day when their names do not appear on the voter rolls. The registrar then determines whether or not the voter was properly registered. Registered voters have their votes counted. Others do not.
According to the Richmond Times Dispatch, Haake believes that state law mandating that voter registrations be completed 30 days prior to Election Day requires him to reject any registration not fully processed by that time, even it the voter submitted his registration application prior to the deadline.
“If the voter upholds his end of the bargain by going to DMV and filling out the required paperwork in advance of the registration deadline, then his vote should be counted,” said ACLU of Virginia executive director Kent Willis.
According to the ACLU, there is no ambiguity in Virginia law. Under Section 24.2-415.1, designated DMV employees are authorized to accept voter registration applications, and the “registration date for a valid voter registration application …is the date when received by …any person authorized to receive voter registration applications.”
Haake apparently finds himself alone with the view he holds. The State Board of Elections and the Attorney General have both issued opinions indicating that voters should not be penalized because the state makes a mistake during the registration process. Apparently, all other registrars in the state are following the Board of Elections’ recommendations.
The ACLU of Virginia hopes to convince Haake to change his policy. Lawyers for the ACLU, however, are now conducting research to determine if litigation is feasible should Haake refuse.
Contact: Kent Willis, Executive Director, ACLU of Virginia, 804-644-8022