Court Upholds Ruling on Transparency of Voter Rolls, Striking Down Republican Voter Suppression

RICHMOND, VA – Friday, after a two-year legal battle, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld a lower court’s ruling for the plaintiffs in Project Vote v. Long, a precedent-setting case brought by voting rights advocates to ensure the transparency of the voter registration and voter roll maintenance processes.
The National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) requires that states make records relating to voter registration and list maintenance available to the public for inspection. In 2008, after receiving reports of large numbers of rejected voter registration applications, voting rights nonprofits Project Vote and the Advancement Project sought to review Norfolk’s rejected registration applications to determine if qualified persons were unlawfully kept off the voting rolls. The state denied access under Virginia law, which prohibits many voter registration records—including rejected voter registration applications—from being disclosed.
“State officials labor under a duty of accountability to the public in ensuring that voter lists include eligible voters and exclude ineligible ones in the most accurate manner possible,” according to the opinion by the three-judge panel. “Without such transparency, public confidence in the essential workings of democracy will suffer.”
“The access to records guaranteed by the NVRA is vital to ensuring that states are not conducting voter purges in secret, or using arbitrary or politically-motivated criteria for removing eligible Americans from the rolls,” says Michael Slater, executive director of Project Vote. “This issue has never before been litigated, and, with controversial voter purges taking place around the country, it has never been more important.”
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