HUNTINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia is suing Cabell County Clerk Karen Cole for refusing to recognize and permit online voter registration within the county.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Alison Mullins, a Marshall University student in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia on Oct. 20.
Fifty-three of West Virginia’s 55 counties began accepting and processing voter registration applications received through the online system when the website launched in September 2015, according to the suit.
ACLU-WV claims that initially, the clerks of Cabell and Kanawha County both refused to use the online system, but Cabell is now the only county refusing to use the online system.
When Cole received online applications or changes to registration, she sends the would-be voter a letter and a paper application to complete their registration, according to the suit.
ACLU-WV claims Mullins recently moved to Cabell County to attend Marshall University and used the Secretary of State’s website to update her voter registration information prior to the Oct. 18 deadline, but that information was not and will not be processed without action from the court.
Mullins is just one of a currently unknown to the plaintiff number of people who may be disenfranchised on Nov. 8 and in future elections due to Cole’s actions, according to the suit.
ACLU-WV claims the defendant’s actions violate the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution.
“Voting is the most fundamental right in our democracy and needs to be protected,” said Jamie Lynn Crofts, ACLU-WV Legal Director. “Clerks in the other 55 counties in West Virginia have been using the online voter registration system with no known problems. It’s unconstitutional that voters in Cabell County are the only people in the state who can’t register to vote online.”
Prior to the West Virginia Primary in May, Kanawha and Cabell County Clerks refused to recognize online voter registrations.
The ACLU-WV filed an emergency petition with the Supreme Court of Appeals the week before the primary, but there was not enough time for the court to hear the case before the election.
Kanawha County Clerk Vera McCormick processed all of the online applications she received, and Kanawha County voters who used the online system were able to vote in May. Cole continued to ignore the constitutional problems with her refusal to use the online system, according to the ACLU-WV.
“Because Ms. Cole continues to refuse to use the online voter registration system, we were forced to file a lawsuit on behalf of prospective voters in Cabell County,” Crofts said. “We had hoped Ms. Cole would correct her mistakes and register voters who used the online system without a lawsuit, but she is still ignoring her constitutional duties. Constitutionally, citizens in one county cannot be treated differently when it comes to citizens in the rest of the state—particularly where a fundamental right like voting is at issue.”
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia case number: 2:16-cv-11111