Va. Democrats file suit to stop voter purge

Marlene Jones | 10/2/2013, 4:34 p.m.
“For him to be a candidate on the ballot and the adviser to a dubious effort to take voting rights ...

— The Virginia attorney general's office believes the Democratic Party of Virginia's latest suit against the Virginia State Board of Elections - and against the Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli specifically - is "spurious and baseless."

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

The complaint filed in federal court is asking a judge to stop a plan by SBE to purge 57,000 voters from the Virginia rolls.

According to DPV, Cuccinelli, who they contend has a "blatant" conflict of interest in providing legal advice to SBE while serving as a candidate for governor,

is the official legal adviser to the SBE. The SBE has sought to eliminate voters that it says are listed as registered in multiple states.

However, Democrats argue that questions persist as to the accuracy of the lists provided. They also note that Cuccinelli’s conflict of interest in the matter raises serious questions about whether the planned purge would be carried out impartially.

Cuccinelli's office is contending that description, saying that the DPV's "assertion that 'Cuccinelli is actively involved in implementing the purging campaign' is an outright lie."

"[This] is clearly demonstrated by the fact that the party can provide no facts in its complaint to back the assertion," said Gottstein. "While a career assistant AG does provide routine legal advice to the state board, the Democratic Party's baseless assertion that the attorney general 'is enforcing the SBE's unlawful purging of voters' is patently false.

The AG's office contends that SBE is merely doing voter registration list maintenance mandated by state law. These 57,000 people were specifically identified by data matches and appear to have registered to vote in other states after they registered in Virginia, noted the office.

"By law, if they have registered in other states, they are required to be removed from Virginia's voter registration list," said Gottstein. "After carefully analyzing the data, the state board notified local registrars to carefully review each registrant and perform legally mandated list maintenance. The purpose of these commonsense laws is to prevent people from committing voter fraud by registering and voting in multiple states."

Still DPV Chair Chaniele Herring believes that in guidance to the local officials charged with carrying out the voter purge, the SBE urges those officials to “use your best judgment” and this raised the real possibility of broad variance between different localities in terms of how individuals would be purged from the roles, which would violate Virginians’ right to equal protection under the law as protected by the 14th amendment.

“Today’s lawsuit is an effort to stop this questionable act until Virginians can be assured that it is conducted impartially and with proper consideration for the sacred voting rights of thousands of people across this commonwealth,” said Herring.

“Ken Cuccinelli’s refusal to resign his office as he runs for governor continues to damage Virginians’ confidence that this upcoming election will be conducted fairly and impartially.

“For him to be a candidate on the ballot and the adviser to a dubious effort to take voting rights away from 57,000 Virginians is an inexcusable conflict of interest that’s become all too common for the attorney general.