Victory in Virginia as Federal Judge Dismisses Voter Purge Case

Release Date: 
June 20, 2016

League of Women Voters of Virginia intervened in the lawsuit, and argued that the proposed purging would have threatened eligible voters

Following a hearing Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Judge Leonie M. Brinkema dismissed a lawsuit filed by self-styled "election integrity" group Virginia Voter's Alliance. The suit sought to force Alexandria's registrar to conduct what the League of Women Voters of Virginia (LWV-VA), which intervened in the case, called an unnecessary and ill-conceived voter purge. 

At the hearing, Judge Brinkema granted the League's request to join the case, and heard arguments from their attorneys to have the claim seeking court-ordered purging of the voter rolls dismissed. LWV-VA was represented in this case by attorneys from voting rights groups Demos and Project Vote, and by attorneys at Hogan Lovells, an international law firm providing pro bono assistance.

Attorney Tom Connally of Hogan Lovells spoke at the hearing on behalf of LWV-VA. He urged the court to dismiss the plaintiffs’ claim that the city’s process for updating its voter rolls violates the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA). Mr. Connally argued that the plaintiffs’ claim attempted to turn the NVRA on its head, because the federal law is intended to make sure eligible voters don’t lose their right to vote.

“We are pleased with this ruling, and to have participated today to make sure that eligible voters’ right to participate won’t be at risk,” said Lois Page, co-president of the League of Women Voters of Virginia. “The League of Women Voters has put a lot of time and effort into registering and educating eligible voters in Virginia. The plaintiffs in this case were trying to undo our work, and we fought back."

Following the hearing, the judge dismissed the case. Plaintiffs will have the option of re-filing the lawsuit, but “only after conducting an appropriate pre-filing investigation.” The judge indicated at the hearing that Virginia Voter's Alliance will have to point to specific facts to suggest there is a problem with the way Alexandria currently manages its voter roll, which Plaintiffs did not successfully do in their initial filing.

“True ‘election integrity’ means making sure eligible people stay on the rolls,” said attorney Michelle Kanter Cohen, who represented LWV-VA for Project Vote. “Voter list maintenance has to be done very carefully, and in accordance with federal law. Poorly planned purges should not be forced on election officials by groups with their own agendas, especially this close to a federal election.”  

“We applaud the court for upholding the careful balance struck by the NVRA, which ensures accurate voter rolls and protects voters from arbitrary cancelation of their registrations,” said Stuart Naifeh, senior counsel at Demos. “Alexandria’s voters can rest easy knowing they will not be purged from the voter rolls based on vague and unsubstantiated concerns about voter fraud.”