- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Virginia Democrats are sniping at one another ahead of next week’s presidential election, laying the ground for a nasty internal spat if Sen. Barack Obama fails to become the first Democratic presidential candidate to prevail in the state since 1964.

The Virginia State Conference NAACP and Gov. Tim Kaine have locked horns over charges that black voters — who are expected to vote overwhelmingly for Mr. Obama — will be disenfranchised by a shortage of polling places and materials in areas where they predominate. Heavy voter turnout is expected Tuesday.

The NAACP and others filed a complaint Monday in U.S. District Court in Richmond, arguing that “the allocation of polling-place resources” by the state and its jurisdictions “is plainly irrational, nonuniform, and likely discriminatory.” A court date has not been set for the suit.

Mr. Kaine brushed off the complaint during a radio appearance on WTOP, saying he welcomes the court review. “I would never say there’s not going to be a single problem — why jinx yourself? But I think we’re very well prepared,” he said.

Republicans, meanwhile, got a bit of positive news with the reversal of an earlier Fairfax County decision to disallow about 100 absentee ballots, many of which were cast by military personnel overseas. Members of the military tend to favor Republican candidate Sen. John McCain.

The ballots had been disallowed by Fairfax County General Registrar Rokey W. Suleman II because they did not contain a completed witness name and address. But Virginia Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell, a Republican, issued an advisory opinion Monday that federal law pre-empts the state’s requirement of names and addresses.

The elections board Tuesday said denying the ballots was proper under state law, but agreed with the attorney general’s opinion and unanimously voted to count the ballots.

“I am pleased that we are able to count these votes, but also am pleased that our registrars followed the law,” elections board chairman, Jean Cunningham, said.

Officials said approximately 100 of the ballots were set aside in Fairfax County, and additional ballots may have been received elsewhere.

The complaint by the NAACP, the legal action group Advancement Project and a Richmond law firm says resources such as voting machines and poll workers — particularly in the cities of Norfolk, Richmond and Virginia Beach — are misallocated or deficient. It says the allotment will lead to the disenfranchisement, specifically of black voters in those jurisdictions, if they do not wait in the long voting lines that result.

The complaint asks that the court require the three cities to allocate voting machines so voters wait no longer than 45 minutes to cast their ballots, provide voters with the option of using a paper ballot and extend polling-place hours until 9 p.m.

Virginia polls are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Mr. Kaine, however, said every precinct in Virginia meets the legal standard for equipment needed. State election officials said Virginia law requires one machine for every 750 registered voters for direct electronic voting systems and one voting booth for every 425 registered voters when optical-scan systems are used.

The governor and the State Board of Elections said Virginia has increased the number of polling places by 300 since the 2004 elections, has 10,600 pieces of voting equipment this year compared with what elections officials said was 5,989 in 2004 and has 30,000 election workers.

“This is going to be [a] historic turnout,” said Mr. Kaine, a Democrat. But “we think we’ve got the equipment and personnel in place.”

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