WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, the Democratic Party of Virginia (DPVA) and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging two of Virginia’s election laws. Despite Virginia’s recent enactment of a statewide Voting Rights Act, the lawsuit alleges that two laws outlining registration requirements and how absentee ballots are cured remain unnecessary hurdles to ensuring all eligible voters can cast a ballot and have it counted.
The lawsuit first challenges the state’s requirement that voters provide their full Social Security number (SSN) in order to register to vote. The plaintiffs argue that their efforts to register voters are hindered by this requirement — which only three states in the country have — as voters may be hesitant to hand out their full SSN. According to the complaint, this burden on the right to free speech and association violates their First and 14th Amendment rights. The plaintiffs also argue that whether or not a voter provides this information on their registration is immaterial to their eligibility to vote, but in Virginia omitting a full SSN leads to the wholesale rejection of a voter’s registration in violation of the Civil Rights Act. Finally, the plaintiffs allege that Virginia’s SSN requirement also violates the Privacy Act, which “makes it unlawful for a state to deny individuals the right to vote if they refuse to disclose their SSN” unless they had the law in place before 1975 — which Virginia did not.
The lawsuit also challenges the state’s cure procedures, specifically the arbitrary deadline by which voters will receive notice that their absentee ballots contain a technical defect that needs to be cured. Despite the fact that all voters have until noon on the Friday after Election Day to cure a ballot that has been flagged for rejection for an easily-fixable defect — and mail-in ballots postmarked by Election Day and received by noon on the Friday after Election Day are considered timely — the state only guarantees a notice and opportunity to cure these defects to voters whose ballots are received by the Friday before Election Day. This means that voters whose absentee ballots are returned after that Friday but before Election Day may receive no notice of their easily-curable defective ballot and it may be thrown out. The plaintiffs argue that this arbitrary notice cut-off denies procedural due process by failing to provide the same safeguards to all Virginians voting absentee in violation of the 14th Amendment, unduly burdens the right to vote in violation of the First and 14th Amendments and can lead to the disenfranchisement of voters who are not given notice of a curable defect with their ballot.