HAAKE: Bucking the system

Defiance is different than pragmatism. Lawrence C. Haake III, Chesterfield County Voting Registrar, is a pragmatist. His actions during the lead up to next week’s elections are reported to be in defiance of the State Board of Election’s (SBE) mandate to purge voters from voting rolls using a list that was emailed from their office.  

But as the SBE pushes for a purging of the voting rolls, the pragmatic Mr. Haake began the task, but realized it would be fruitless. He indicated that many voters on the list, that the SBE suggested be removed from the voting rolls, had either been removed already, after moving out of the area, or were in the process of doing so.  He said that over the years he has found only a few of voters who did not abide by election laws.

When the Democrats found out about the plan to purge the voter lists they filed an injunction. Haake said, that is when the SBE really put the pressure on. But still didn’t distribute the list of registered voters that should be removed. Oddly, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli defended the case in court, who is on the ballot in the Governor’s race.

The news about the purge got out a year ago. SBE said registrars had to deal with a list of voters who should be purged from voting roll, but the list didn’t arrive until the end of August. The list of voters to purge arrived with an email accompanying an Excel list.

Haake wrote in a commentary in the Richmond Times Dispatch on Sunday, that in addition to the list of voters to review, the email was accompanied by the following statement:

“SBE has prepared an Excel file for each locality listing the voters that need to be reviewed for cancellation and mailed a notice. The file includes all of the information that you will likely need to make a determination on whether or not to cancel the voter record. …Please review your locality file and the information provided for each voter as soon as possible.”

“I looked at the data and found there was a credibility issue with the data,” Haake told the Village News. “It was presented as accurate, and that these people in other states should be looked at and take them off, and I said this is not that simple.”

The SBE list contained a statewide list of over 57,000 names. Chesterfield’s County Registrar said the SBE list he received of about 2,200 voters in Chesterfield, were to be struck from the rolls. The state called attention to their database of voters registered in more than one state.

Haake took a sample of approximately 1,000 names; all but 174 of them were registered in Virginia and they were eligible to vote. Haake called the list “clearly inaccurate and unreliable.”

According to Haake, more in-depth research would take away from his regular duties leading up to the election, especially having only 60 days before the vote to do the research. Haake alluded to a high error count on the list.

Although he realizes the seriousness of the issue, the affable Haake  takes all the hubbub in stride. He says he has received a lot of calls due to SBA mandated purge.

“If I get 50 calls telling me what a bum I am, and I get two telling me way to go, that’s a big deal,” Haake said.

Haake’s decision to wait until after the election received national news coverage. Not only was his story covered by the Associated Press and the Washington Post, but newspapers across the country.

His actions were also covered in an interview on “The Rachael Maddow Show” on MSNBC.

“When they first sent the list out, it had 2,200 names on it. We were in the midst of opening another precinct, which involve notifying over 3,000 voters. We’d also taken delivery of 60 new voting machines that had to be tested and then there were over 300 people we had to train, and then at the end of August this list appeared,” Haake told Maddow.

Maddow asked Haake if he had any support from local election officials.

“We have a three-member Board that appoints me as General Registrar, and they were contacted by the SBE to order me to process a list and remove the voters. I had briefed them already and told them what I had found [errors and voters who had moved away as long as two years ago]… and they unanimously supported my decision,” Haake told Maddow.

Haake said that the State Board of Elections told the Chesterfield Board of Elections that “they were going to do all they could to get me fired.”

Could this be politically motivated? Haake told Maddow that Chesterfield typically votes Republican, and after talking to some prominent Republicans and the Democratic Party Chairman as well as the Tea Party, he said, none of them wanted the purge. He said that is the mystery in all of this.

Election turnout on November 5 is expected to be normal in Chesterfield, due to the Bond Referendum.

“I don’t expect a big turnout this election,” Haake said. “I think the Bond Referendum and the Meals Tax will be the driving force. I think 40 to 45 percent is kind of normal for this kind of election. I think it will be typical accept for our question [referendum], otherwise it would be down.”

Haake has a B.S. in law enforcement from VCU with additional credit hours towards a Certificate in Computer Science.

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