ACLU of Virginia Offers Legal Assistance to Voters Denied Ballots Because They Refuse to Reveal Their Social Security Numbers

Affiliate: ACLU of Virginia
October 27, 2006 12:00 am

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ACLU of Virginia
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RICHMOND, VA — The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia today announced that it is prepared to provide legal representation to registered voters in Chesterfield County who are denied absentee ballots because they refuse to give their Social Security numbers to election officials.

According to the ACLU, no state law requires registered voters to reveal their Social Security numbers to obtain an absentee ballot. In addition, the federal Privacy Act prevents government officials from denying any person “any right, benefit, or privilege provided by law because of such individual’s refusal to disclose his Social Security number.”

“Virginia law says that registrars are supposed to be in the business of encouraging people to vote,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis. “By fabricating completely unwarranted obstacles to voting, the Chesterfield registrar not only violates the letter of Virginia law, but he also threatens the very process that makes us a democracy.”

The deadline for applying for absentee ballots is Tuesday, October 31. Properly registered voters who are denied absentee ballots because they refuse to reveal their Social Security numbers are encouraged to contact the ACLU of Virginia hotline at 804-644-8080.

This is not the first time that Chesterfield Registrar Lawrence Haake III has come under fire from the ACLU. Haake prompted a visit from Department of Justice officials in 2004 when he posted armed guards at polling places. He also drew criticism for allowing poll workers to incorrectly require IDs from voters and for refusing to count provisional ballots casts by voters who had registered at state offices on time but whose applications were not processed in a timely manner.

The State Board of Elections has asked Chesterfield Registrar Lawrence Haake to stop demanding Social Security numbers from prospective absentee voters, and has announced that it may seek a court order to compel compliance with the law.

Virginia voters may be required to reveal their Social Security numbers to register to vote because that provision of Virginia law pre-dates the Privacy Act, which was adopted in 1974. The ACLU of Virginia believes that Virginia could be the only state that still requires Social Security numbers to register to vote. However, nothing in the law compels registered voters to reveal Social Security numbers to receive a ballot.

For information on the ACLU’s efforts to protect voter rights on Election Day nationwide, go to: www.aclu.org/votingrights/gen/27246prs20061101.html.

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