Chesterfield registrar scrubs voter list, rips critics

PURGE: Chesterfield Registrar Larry Haake says only a fraction of the “duplicate” voter list he received from the state was ineligible.

By Kenric Ward | Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau

RICHMOND, Va. – In the end, a list of 2,261 “duplicate voters” in Chesterfield County boiled down to 468 names eligible for cancellation.

Registrar Larry Haake came under fire for refusing to purge ineligible voters before the November election.

Two groups – True the Vote and the American Civil Rights Unionthreatened to sue Haake if he did not act.

Haake defended his delay, saying an initial perusal of the state-generated list found at least 17 percent of the voters were, in fact, eligible to cast ballots in the Richmond suburb.

After the election, Haake determined that 1,260 voters were already “inactive,” and “in the process” of canceling their Virginia registrations.

He said 174 voters listed as “duplicates” had more recent Chesterfield registration dates than other state registrations.

“They should not even have been on the list,” Haake said.

The State Board of Elections sent “duplicate voter” lists to all county registrars last summer and directed that they scrub their voter rolls accordingly.

Virginia’s first foray into the interstate cross-check program resulted in some 38,000 voters being removed from poll books around the commonwealth this past fall. A few county purge rates ran as high as 90 percent.

But citing the high inaccuracy rate on the state’s list in Chesterfield, Haake defended his refusal to act before the election – and he blasted his vote-watch critics.

“If those groups are truly interested in protecting voter rights, then they need to become informed … and stop issuing threats,” he said.

“Both groups would have had me cancel the voting rights of hundreds of properly registered voters, many of whom did in fact vote in the November election.”

American Civil Rights Union attorney J. Christian Adams said his organization has sought to review Haake’s findings under the National Voter Registration Act.

Going forward, Haake called for state legislation “with guidelines to protect the rights of properly registered voters.”

Chesterfield, a traditional GOP stronghold, went for Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli over Democrat Terry McAuliffe by 49-41 percent, and attorney general candidate Mark Obenshain beat Democrat Mark Herring 55-45. But Democrat Ralph Northam defeated GOP lieutenant governor hopeful E.W. Jackson, 53-47 percent.

All those totals showed a significant drop-off in Republican support. In 2009, each statewide GOP candidate carried Chesterfield by at least 28 percentage points. Cuccinelli trounced Stephen Shannon for attorney general, 66-34.

The Democrats won all three statewide offices in 2013, with Herring prevailing by 907 votes amid a recount.

Kenric Ward is chief of Watchdog.org’s Virginia Bureau. Contact him at kenric@watchdogvirginia.org or at (571) 319-9824. @Kenricward

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