ACLU of Virginia Welcomes Justice Department Decision to Monitor County for Voting Rights Violations

Affiliate: ACLU of Virginia
October 29, 2004 12:00 am

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Decision Comes in the Wake of County’s Plan to Post Armed Police at Polls

CHESTERFIELD, VA — The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia today welcomed a decision by the U.S. Department of Justice to monitor polling places in Chesterfield County on Election Day for voting rights violations, including whether any voters are challenged improperly on the basis of their race, color, or membership in a language minority group.

The Justice Department announced yesterday that it will send approximately 840 federal poll observers to 86 jurisdictions in 25 states. Florida and South Dakota, each with nine jurisdictions on the list, will be the most observed states. Chesterfield is the lone jurisdiction in Virginia to come under Justice Department scrutiny.

“We are not absolutely certain why Chesterfield County ended up on this list,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis. “But we do know that there are nearly 40,000 local political jurisdictions in the United States and that the 86 being monitored by DOJ were not selected at random.”

“It seems highly likely that Chesterfield’s much criticized decision to place armed, uniformed police officers at the polls drew the attention of federal voting rights lawyers,” added Willis.

In a letter sent last week to Chesterfield County registrar Lawrence C. Haake, III, the ACLU of Virginia asked the county to cancel plans to post armed police officers at polling places, saying that their presence would be a reminder of when armed government officials were used to prevent minorities from voting, and would result in intimidating many potential voters and cause them to avoid the polls.

The ACLU suggested that Chesterfield County follow the lead of other jurisdictions in Virginia, which have increased security on Election Day without placing uniformed police officers at polling places.

To read about the ACLU’s rejection of armed guards at the polls in Virginia, go to /node/9976.

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