Following ACLU of Virginia Action, Chesterfield County Registrar Agrees to Stop Misleading Voters About ID Requirements

Affiliate: ACLU of Virginia
November 2, 2004 12:00 am

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RICHMOND, VA – Responding to complaints from voters, the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia today asked the Chesterfield County voter registrar to order poll workers to stop implying that prospective voters must show an ID before being allowed to enter the polling booth.

“There is a long tradition in Virginia of making voting more difficult, treating it as a favor granted by the state rather than a right,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis. “It is in that tradition that poll workers in Chesterfield remembered to tell voters to have their IDs ready, but conveniently forgot to tell them they didn’t need IDs at all.”

Under Virginia law, poll workers may ask voters for identification, but voters are not required to show identification. Instead, they may simply sign an Affirmation of Identity form.

The ACLU had received complaints from three individuals at two separate Chesterfield polling places who said that poll workers advised them they must have a driver’s license or voter registration card to vote.

At the Clover Hill High School precinct, one voter left a long queue after thinking she needed some form of identification to vote. She rushed to the Division of Motor Vehicles, hoping to obtain a replacement drivers’ license before poll closing time. At DMV she found a voters’ rights pamphlet indicating that she did not need identification to vote. She then returned to her polling place and took her place at the end of the line, prepared to vote without identification.

The issue of voter identification arose not at voter sign-in tables, but in the long lines outside Chesterfield polling places. Poll workers reminded voters as they waited that they should have their drivers license or voter identification card ready when they signed-in, but the workers failed to tell voters that no identification was necessary. Witnesses told the ACLU that each time the poll workers told those in line to have their voter registration card or driver’s license ready, several prospective voters would leave.

In a letter faxed to this morning to the registrar, Lawrence C. Haake, III, Willis requested that he tell poll workers to stop implying that voters must have an ID to vote. In his response, Haake did not acknowledge that his workers were misinforming voters, but abided by the ACLU’s request, writing, “since you object to this procedure, I have advised our poll workers to discontinue this practice.”

The text of Willis’s memo to Haake follows:


TO: Lawrence C. Haake, III, Registrar, Chesterfield County, Virginia
FROM: Kent Willis, Executive Director
DATE: November 2, 2004

RE: Illegally Informing Voters That They Must Show Identification Cards

We have received complaints from voters at the Clover Hill High School precinct who say that poll workers are announcing to persons standing in line to vote that they must show a voter registration card or a valid driver’s license in order to receive a ballot. This is incorrect and a violation of Virginia law.

Poll workers are not mentioning that Social Security cards, government-issued identification cards, or employer-issued photo identification cards are acceptable forms of identification for voting purposes (Virginia Code, 24.2-643 (b)). Nor are poll workers informing voters of their right to complete an Affirmation of Identity form in lieu of showing identification (Virginia Code, 24.2-643 (b)).

Our complainants witnessed prospective voters leaving the queue when poll workers wrongly announced that drivers’ licenses or voter registration cards were required. One voter, who had recently lost her driver’s license, left the polling place and went to DMV in an attempt to obtain a new license. At DMV she picked up a pamphlet on voting rights that made it clear she did not need an identification card in order to vote. Only then did she return to the polling place.

Please take immediate steps to inform poll workers at Clover Hill High School that they are misinforming voters when they say they must show identification to vote and that the identification must be in the form of a driver’s license or voter registration card.

Please let us know when you have informed poll workers of their obligations under Virginia law regarding voter identification, and when you have received assurances that they will comply with the law for the remainder Election Day. I strongly recommend that you share this message with all poll workers in Chesterfield County.

I thank you for your immediate attention to this important matter.

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