October 27, 2008
(AP) - The Virginia NAACP sued Gov. Tim Kaine on Monday, arguing that the state failed to prepare for an unprecedented turnout of voters in next week's presidential election.
The complaint, filed late Monday in U.S. District Court in Richmond, alleged that with record increases in voter registration, the state failed to provide enough polling places. The group asked the court to put the federal government in charge of the election, reallocate voting machines to precincts most likely to have long lines and keep polls open for an additional two hours.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People contended in a 27-page lawsuit that the failure to provide more voting machines, particularly in majority black precincts, violates the state and U.S. constitutions and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Besides Kaine, a Democrat and close political and personal ally of Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama, defendants include the State Board of Elections and its executive secretary, Nancy Rodrigues, and registrars and election officials in three of the state's largest cities - Richmond, Norfolk and Virginia Beach.
It could not be determined after court hours Monday when a hearing on the complaint would be held.
There was no immediate response from the Kaine administration or the Board of Elections. The office of Republican Virginia Attorney General Bob McDonnell, which is responsible for representing the board, had not seen the complaint Monday evening and could not comment, said spokesman J. Tucker Martin.
The lawsuit notes that many polling places in Virginia were overwhelmed during the February Democratic presidential primary that shattered records for turnout in Virginia nomination contests. Obama won with more than 1 million votes in a state where primaries historically pass with scant notice.
In some precincts, officials ran out of ballots during the primary, leaving voters in tears and forced to mark their preferences on sheets of paper. The makeshift ballots were later rejected.
"The allocation of polling place resources is plainly irrational, nonuniform and likely discriminatory," wrote Henry L. Marsh, attorney for the NAACP and a Democratic state senator from Richmond.
Marsh said inadequate polling places in 2004 led to long lines and cost people who couldn't wait indefinitely for their right to vote. Since January, more than 436,000 new voters have been registered in Virginia, increasing the state's voter rolls largely because of Obama's historic position as the first black nominee for president.
"To adhere stubbornly to inadequate levels of resources in the face of the increased registration and increased turnout will result in a meltdown on Election Day," the complaint says.