- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 1, 2008

RICHMOND | The NAACP on Friday resumed efforts to force Virginia to put more voting machines in minority polling places, setting up a court hearing 15 hours before voters head to polls in the battleground state.

The Virginia chapter of National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s will return to federal court Monday afternoon to argue the state is inadequately prepared to handle an enormous voter surge expected Tuesday.

Record turnout is expected in part because Democrat Barack Obama has campaigned heavily here in an effort to win a state that last supported a Democratic presidential candidate in 1964. Mr. Obama would be the nation’s first black president if elected.

The NAACP accuses the state of failing to provide enough voting machines to handle the crowds, particularly in majority-black precincts. The lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Richmond asked for paper ballots to be provided as one option if lines got too long.

More than 436,000 new voters registered since Jan. 1, a 10 percent increase that pushed voter rolls past 5 million for the first time in Virginia, a state of 7.7 million residents. Much of the increase results from the Obama campaign’s aggressive registration drive.

At the close of the first fiercely contested presidential race in Virginia in generations, several polls show Mr. Obama slightly ahead in the run for the state’s 13 electoral votes.

The NAACP had withdrawn its request for a hearing Thursday after receiving new information from state officials about the placement of election day resources. At the time, NAACP officials said a new hearing before the election was unlikely.

But after assessing the updated information, the NAACP concluded preparations were still insufficient and on Friday requested a new hearing.

“We went back and looked at the numbers, and it’s still the same old bad news. We’re still seeing disparities between black and white precincts,” said Ben Jealous, national NAACP president.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Tim Kaine, who has campaigned alongside Mr. Obama to aid his fellow Democrat’s Virginia bid, said the administration was surprised to see the lawsuit renewed.

She said state law gives the governor no authority to extend poll hours.

“We feel confident that we’ll be prepared,” spokeswoman Delacey Skinner said. “I think that voters who are going to the polls on Election Day should go early and be prepared for the line, but we’re not anticipating any kind of major problems.”

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