Voting Rights Groups Move to Intervene in Virginia Voter Purge Case

Release Date: 
June 16, 2016

League of Women Voters of Virginia says proposed purge could threaten eligible voters in November election

Tomorrow, a federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, will address a request by the League of Women Voters of Virginia to intervene in an ongoing legal battle there, where a self-styled “election integrity” group has sued the city’s registrar in an attempt to pressure her into conducting an unnecessary and improper purge of the voter rolls in advance of the 2016 election.

To protect eligible voters from unlawful disenfranchisement, the League has also filed a proposed legal brief supporting Alexandria’s effort to dismiss the plaintiffs' claim that the city’s process for updating its voter rolls violates the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA). Friday’s hearing in the case, which concerns both the League of Women Voters’ request to join the case and the city’s effort to have plaintiffs’ claims thrown out, will be held at 10 a.m. in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

The League is represented in this case by attorneys from voting rights groups Demos and Project Vote, and by attorneys at Hogan Lovells LLP, an international law firm providing pro bono assistance.

“The League of Women Voters has been advocating for the protection of voting rights for 96 years, and we have put a lot of time and effort into registering and educating eligible voters in Virginia,” said Lois Page, co-president of the League of Women Voters of Virginia. “The plaintiffs in this case are trying to undo our work, and we’re fighting back.”  

The NVRA was passed in 1993 to increase voter registration opportunities and to establish requirements states must follow when updating their voter registration rolls.  A group identifying itself as the Virginia Voter's Alliance has filed the lawsuit against Alexandria’s registrar of voters, arguing that Section 8 of the NVRA requires the registrar to more aggressively remove (or “purge”) voters from the rolls.  

The League of Women Voters of Virginia—and the voting rights groups who represent them—disagree.  

“Eligible voters in Virginia who have taken the time to register should not be removed from the voter rolls based on vague and unsubstantiated concerns about voter fraud,” said Stuart Naifeh, senior counsel at Demos. “The NVRA has built-in safeguards to give voters the benefit of the doubt before cancelling their registration. Any list maintenance procedures implemented in Alexandria must be in compliance with these federal protections.”  

The stakes of this case are significant. “These lawsuits that seek to force election officials to hastily remove voters from the registration rolls without following the required procedures are always dangerous, but they’re especially troubling as we get closer to an election,” said Michelle Kanter Cohen, election counsel at Project Vote. “True election integrity means making sure eligible people stay on the rolls.”