A federal judge in Huntington on Tuesday sided with lawyers from West Virginia’s chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and ordered the Cabell County clerk to permit online voter registration within the county. Chief U.S. District Judge Robert Chambers found that by not honoring the state’s electronic voter registration system, Cabell Clerk Karen Cole is violating the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution. Residents in every other West Virginia county but Cabell have been able to successfully use the electronic system, ACLU lawyers wrote in the lawsuit they filed last week. Following the ruling, Cole said she would immediately begin registering voters who used the online system. Cole will mail those people voter registration cards and letters stating they don’t have to take any additional steps to be able to vote Nov. 8.
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.
However, when Cole would receive an online application or changes to registration, she responded with a letter and a paper application that required a signature in order for the registration to be complete.
Cole testified for nearly an hour during Tuesday’s hearing, according to Jamie Lynn Croft, legal director for the ACLU. Cole said she would have allowed people who returned the form to her office by Election Day to cast a provisional ballot, Crofts said.