Ebony Wright, a 37-year-old paralegal from Suffolk, has voted in the past three Virginia general elections and in two Democratic primaries. Yet on Sept. 27, Suffolk Registrar Susan Saunders sent Wright a letter saying her name had been stricken from the voting rolls because she’d moved to another state. Wright’s was one of 57,293 names on a list sent by the state Board of Elections to voter registrars across Virginia 10 weeks before the Nov. 5 election for governor, House of Delegates and city offices. State officials told registrars that simply being on the list was sufficient grounds for removal from the voting rolls. But they added that as a safeguard, registrars should carefully examine voting history and other information to make sure that the voter in question hadn’t returned to Virginia. In a lawsuit filed last week, the Virginia Democratic Party claims that the list is riddled with errors – that thousands of people on it live in Virginia and are legally entitled to vote here. The party also claims that the state failed to set uniform standards for how to handle people on the list, so local election officials are using widely different practices in deciding who to remove and what to do if they show up at the polls in November. The party holds up Wright as a prime example of the problem.
She moved from Virginia to South Carolina and was registered to vote there from 2003 to 2007, according to a statement filed with the court. The list says she registered to vote in Virginia and then again in South Carolina in 2005.
Virginia law requires a local registrar to remove voters from the rolls if the registrar is notified that they’ve registered to vote in another state after they registered in Virginia. The requirement is meant to prevent voter fraud.
But Wright told the court she moved back to Virginia and registered to vote here again in 2008.
The list she’s on came from the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program, which Virginia joined late last year. It shares voter data among 21 states.
The state Board of Elections says the data is “extremely accurate” and matches voters based on first name, last name, date of birth and the last four digits of their Social Security number. The state notes that after a voter’s name is flagged, local registrars also can check the person’s full registration and voting history.
In Wright’s case, that would have shown that she voted in Virginia five times since 2008.