Virginia Democrats Sue Over State Voter Roll Purge

Virginia’s Democratic Party sued the state alleging that a plan to purge about 57,000 voters from registration lists threatens the constitutional right to vote just weeks before the Nov. 5 election.

The lawsuit, which names Republican Governor Robert McDonnell and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli as defendants, seeks a court order barring the state’s election board and county and city registrars from purging voters before the November election. Cuccinelli, a Republican, is running to replace McDonnell, who by law can’t stand for re-election.

Members of the Democratic Party of Virginia “and thousands of other citizens will be at risk of having their voting rights unlawfully stripped away through standard-less, ad hoc determinations by county and city registrars,” according to the complaint filed Oct. 1 in federal court in Alexandria.

Cuccinelli is running against Terry McAuliffe, a Democratic fundraiser and confidant of Bill and Hillary Clinton. Virginia, once a Republican stronghold, has become a swing state as Democrats have begun winning presidential and U.S. senate races in the state through a combination of demographic changes and policy positions taken by Republicans on issues such as immigration and abortion rights. President Barack Obama won the state in last year’s election with 51 percent of the vote.

‘Outright Lie’

Claims that Cuccinelli is actively involved in implementing the purging campaign are “an outright lie,” Brian Gottstein, a spokesman for the attorney general, said in an e-mailed statement.

“Suing the attorney general is a shameless stunt, as under the law, he is clearly not an appropriate party to the lawsuit,” Gottstein said in the statement. “He has had no personal communication with the state board or its legal counsel about the subject of this lawsuit.”

Taylor Keeney, McDonnell’s press secretary, referred inquiries on the lawsuit to Nikki Sheridan, a spokeswoman for the state’s board of elections. Sheridan said in an e-mail that the board is “waiting to receive the lawsuit so that it may be reviewed.”

The state’s planned purge of voter rolls lacks uniformity, is based on flawed lists and will unlawfully prevent thousands of qualified voters from participating in the November election, the Democratic Party said in its complaint.

Voter Crosscheck

Last year, Virginia joined the Republican-controlled Interstate Voter Crosscheck Program, which enables states to identify people who are registered to vote in more than one state and remove them from registration lists, according to the complaint. Of the 26 states in the program, 21 have Republican legislatures, Republican governors or both, according to the complaint.

Virginia’s board of elections identified about 57,000 voters through this program and advised county and city registrars to use their “best judgment” if there is any ambiguity about whether a person should be purged, according to the complaint.

“The lists are riddled with errors and include thousands of qualified Virginia voters,” the Democratic Party said in the filing.

The case is Democratic Party of Virginia v. Virginia State Board of Elections, 13-cv-01218, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia (Alexandria).

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