ACLU Lawsuit Says Officials Unconstitutionally Prevented Man From Voting In Virginia
Election Officials Imposed Illegal Voter Identification Requirements
RICHMOND, VA – The American Civil Liberties Union and ACLU of Virginia today filed a federal lawsuit against a Virginia county’s voting officials for refusing to allow a resident to vote when he was unable to produce identification. Virginia law allows registered voters in state elections to vote without an ID, once they have signed an identity verification form.
R. Leigh Gillette showed up at a Prince William County, Virginia polling place on November 6 about 30 minutes before the polls closed. Because he was on his way to a recreation facility and his wife was driving, Gillette was not carrying an ID. When a poll worker told him he could not vote without ID, Gillette asked to speak to the person in charge who also told him he could not vote. Gillette was never offered an Affirmation of Identity form as required by Virginia law.
“This is our number one complaint from voters on Election Day,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis. “Contrary to state law, the spirit of democracy and common sense, voting officials in Virginia frequently lead voters to believe they must have an ID to vote. In Mr. Gillette’s case, it was more than misleading – it was an outright denial, even after he questioned the decision by voting officials.”
Today’s complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. The ACLU charged that the county election officials’ actions in requiring voters to present identification in order to vote violates the Constitution’s First and Fourteenth Amendments. In addition to being unnecessary, a voter ID requirement may prevent many individuals from voting at all. It is estimated that 20 million Americans – many of whom are low-income, elderly or racial minorities – do not own government-issued IDs.
“What happened in Virginia raises grave concerns about the integrity of the voting process across the country,” said Neil Bradley, Associate Director of the ACLU Voting Rights Project. “Voter ID laws are bad enough when they are codified into law, but this case highlights another complicated problem – de facto voter ID laws imposed arbitrarily by local election officials. No matter what you call it, this is an unconstitutional violation of the fundamental right to vote.”
Virginia lawmakers recently attempted to amend the state law to require voters to show an ID at the polls. The ACLU opposed the legislation, noting that it is unnecessary because voting without an ID does not pose a threat to the integrity of the electoral process. The ACLU relied on a recent national study of electoral practices which concluded that there is no history of in person voter fraud in the U.S. The bill failed.
Attorneys in this case are Bradley of the ACLU Voting Rights Project, Rebecca K. Glenberg of the ACLU of Virginia, and cooperating attorney Victor M. Glasberg of the law firm Victor M. Glasberg & Associates.
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