Federal Court Upholds Ruling that Ensures Transparency of Va. Voter Registration Records
A precedent-setting case brought by voting rights groups to ensure transparency of voter rolls and voter list maintenance was upheld by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit on Friday.
In 2008, after receiving reports of large numbers of rejected voter registration applications, voting rights nonprofits Project Vote and the Advancement Project sought to review Norfolk’s rejected registration applications to determine if qualified citizens were unlawfully kept off the voting rolls. The state denied access due to Virginia law, which prohibits many voter registration records—including rejected voter registration applications—from being disclosed.
Project Vote, the Advancement Project, and pro bono attorneys from the law firm of Ropes & Gray LLP, filed Project Vote v. Long in February 2010, to compel Virginia to comply with the National Voter Registration Act. In July 2011, in the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Virginia, Judge Rebecca Smith handed down her decision in the case, ordering the Norfolk County Registrar “to permit access to any requesting party for copy and/or inspection of voter registration applications and related records.”
The ruling was stayed pending appeal, but on June 15 a three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld Judge Smith’s ruling.
“The access to records guaranteed by the NVRA is vital to ensuring that states are not conducting voter purges in secret, or using arbitrary or politically motivated criteria for removing eligible Americans from the rolls,” says Michael Slater, executive director of Project Vote. “This issue has never before been litigated, and, with controversial voter purges taking place around the country, it has never been more important.” READ MORE