The West Virginia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit Thursday against Cabell County Clerk Karen Cole, claiming her refusal to recognize and permit online voter registration within the county violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution. Residents in every other West Virginia county but Cabell, the lawsuit states, are able to successfully use the electronic voter registration system through the Secretary of State’s website. And Cabell is one of the top five counties in the state where prospective voters have used the online system, according to the complaint, which was also filed by the national ACLU’s Voting Rights Project and Charleston lawyer Anthony Majestro. The organizations filed the complaint, which seeks class-action status, on behalf of Allison Mullins, who recently moved to Cabell County to attend Marshall University. Mullins used the Secretary of State’s website to update her voter registration information prior to the Oct. 18 deadline, the lawsuit states. Her “information was not and will not be processed by Defendant Cole without action from this Court,” her lawyers wrote.
The lawsuit states that the class would be made up of all qualified voters in Cabell County who properly used the Secretary of State’s online system to submit a voter registration application or update their voter registration information. The case has been assigned to Chief U.S. District Judge Robert C. Chambers.
When a Cabell County resident registers to vote online or gets online to update their voter registration information, they receive an email from the Secretary of State indicating the registration or updates have been received and will be sent to the appropriate county clerk, the lawsuit states.
However, when Cole receives an online application or changes to registration, she responds with a letter and a paper application to complete the registration, according to the lawsuit.