Registrar responds to ACLU complain by agreeing to stop confusing practice

The ACLU of Virginia today asked Chesterfield County voter registrar Lawrence C. Haake, III to order poll workers to stop implying that prospective voters must show an ID before being allowed to enter the polling booth. 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.
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.
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.
“There is a long tradition in Virginia of making voting more difficult,” said ACLU of Virginia executive director Kent Willis, “treating it as a favor granted by the state rather than a right. 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.”
In a letter faxed to Haake this morning, Willis asked the registrar to 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…”
A copy of Willis’s memo to Haake is found at http://acluva.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/20041102-Chesterfield-Voter-ID-Issue.pdf.

Contact: Kent Willis, Executive Director, ACLU of Virginia, 804-644-8022

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