RICHMOND, Va. (CN) – A nonprofit group challenged the constitutionality of a Virginia law that allows only candidates, state officials and political parties access to voter history records. The KnowCampaign says that after it obtained voter records from a “third party,” the state Board of Elections threatened it with a criminal investigation.
The KnowCampaign says it got the records to use in a statewide mailing campaign to increase turnout in the state’s 2009 general election. But the threat of prosecution from the defendant Board of Elections forced it to abort the campaign after it had spent thousands of dollars for printing.
The group claims in Richmond City Circuit Court that the elections board discriminates by not allowing it and other organizations to use the voting records for electoral purposes.
The KnowCampaign claims it intended to use the information only for “campaign and political purposes,” and the fact that the state makes the information available to candidates, officials and party chairmen violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.
The voter history records indicate only who voted – not how they voted, the group says.
The KnowCampaign wanted to contact 350,000 random Virginia voters with pamphlets asking whether they or their neighbors had voted in past elections. The campaign was meant to boost voter participation.
The group says its plan was based on a Michigan study about how citizens can be persuaded to vote. That study claimed that voter history can be “extremely helpful in motivating voters to go to the polls.”
The group wants an injunction forcing the Board of Elections to grant it and other organizations access to voter history records for electoral purposes. It also wants an injunction preventing the elections board from prosecuting or investigating it.
The KnowCampaign is represented by Anthony Troy with Troutman Sanders.