Letter cites recent actions that could have an adverse impact on minority voters

Chesterfield County, VA -- The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia today asked the U.S. Department of Justice to send federal election observers to Chesterfield County on Election Day, November 7, 2006.
In his letter to John Tanner, Chief of the Voting Rights Section, ACLU of Virginia executive director Kent Willis cites four incidents over the last two years that, if repeated, could have an adverse impact on minority voters.
“Chesterfield seems to be Virginia’s number one trouble spot for irregular voting procedures,” said Willis. “Some, like the bizarre posting of armed guards at polling places two years ago, seem intentionally designed to intimidate minority voters. Others, like telling voters standing in line that they must have identification to vote, are simply more likely to have a negative impact on minority voters than others. Either way, the Justice Department ought to be present on Election Day in Chesterfield to ensure that racially fair procedures are in place.”
In addition to the 2004 incidents involving armed guards and misinforming voters that they must have identification, Willis’s letter also cites Registrar Lawrence C. Haake III’s refusal last year to count provisional ballots submitted by persons who had registered on time but whose applications were not processed in a timely manner, as well as an incident reported in the Richmond Times-Dispatch today in which Haake refused to issue an absentee ballot to a registered voter because the voter would not give out his Social Security Number.
In his letter, Willis concludes:
I cannot say with certainty that any of these incidents will repeat themselves in Chesterfield County on Election Day 2006. Cumulatively, however, they indicate a jurisdiction that is generally hostile to fair voting practices and specifically likely to restrict voting procedures in a manner that disproportionately impacts minority voters.
The full text of Willis’s letter is found at http://acluva.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/20061020-Chesterfield-DOJ-Request.pdf.

Contact: Kent Willis, 804/644-8022