Chesterfield County Will Count Provisional Ballots

Affiliate: ACLU of Virginia
September 6, 2005 12:00 am

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County Electoral Board Dodges ACLU/ NAACP lawsuit

RICHMOND, VA – Following threat of a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, the three-member Chesterfield County Electoral board has decided that registrar Lawrence C. Haake, III must count the ballots of qualified voters who apply to register at DMV prior to the registration deadline, but whose applications are not processed in a timely manner.

Haake drew vocal criticism from a broad spectrum of state agencies and voters’ rights groups during the June primary elections when he refused to count the vote of a man who had registered at DMV, but whose application was apparently misplaced. The Virginia Board of Elections, the Attorney General, and the Virginia NAACP joined the ACLU of Virginia in trying to convince Haake to change his mind.

The ACLU announced that it would file a lawsuit challenging Haake’s refusal to count such votes, and the NAACP had decided to serve as a plaintiff.

“”Chesterfield barely avoided being hauled into court,”” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis. “”We patiently waited as the state Board of Elections pressured Haake. But when that didn’t work, we prepared for a lawsuit that would be filed well in advance of the November elections.””

Under Virginia law, voters are allowed to cast provisional ballots 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.

Haake argued that the state law mandating that voter registrations be completed 30 days prior to Election Day required him to reject any registration not fully processed by that time, even if the voter submitted his registration application prior to the deadline.

The ACLU’s Willis disagreed: “”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.””

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 found himself alone with his view. Apparently, all other registrars in Virginia accept ballots form qualified voters who register prior to the 30-day deadline.

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