WaPo Buries Story Concerning Disenfranchisement of Soldiers from Northern Virginia

A Fairfax County registrar's attempts to disenfranchise soldiers voting by absentee ballot is one step closer to being reversed thanks to a legal opinion issued yesterday by Virginia Attorney General Robert McDonnell (R). Although the Old Dominion is a hard-fought battleground state in the 2008 presidential election and John Kerry-backing Fairfax County should be a true-blue source of Obama votes, the story was given just five brief paragraphs on the page four "Virginia Briefing" feature of the October 28 paper's Metro section.

The fact that the registrar, Rokey W. Suleman II, is a partisan Democrat who has worked hard to register inmates at the county jail was unreported in both Christian Davenport's Oct. 28 brief and his full October 27 online article. In fact, Suleman's name itself was missing from the print edition squib.

Washington Examiner staffer William C. Flook reported on October 8 about Suleman's efforts to register jail inmates to vote. While not illegal, his push to register misdemeanor convicts stands in stark contrast to his hair-splitting read of Virginia state law to toss out military absentee ballots for lack of a witness's address (emphases mine):

Inmates at the Fairfax County jail were encouraged to register and vote last week by elections officials making what the county’s sheriff called the first visit of its kind in his 30 years with the county.

That voter turnout effort is now being defended by county officials, but blasted by Republicans who called it an attempt to influence what could be a close presidential election in the commonwealth.

Both Fairfax County General Registrar Rokey Suleman and Sheriff Stan Barry deny any wrongdoing in the decision that granted Office of Elections on-site access to the Adult Detention Center in downtown Fairfax. Barry did, however, say it was unprecedented in his 30-year career with the county.

“We’d never run into it before, honestly,” Barry said. “They contacted us last week and we were not willing to take any role in it, but basically they were just asking for access to the prisoners who were eligible to vote, and we gave them that.”

The visit came as presidential campaigns were making feverish attempts to sign up voters ahead of the Oct. 6 deadline. The state is considered critical to the White House aspirations of Barack Obama and John McCain.

Felons are not eligible to vote in Virginia without having their rights restored by the governor. Suleman said his office, at the request of criminal defense attorneys who approached his staff, delivered registration forms and absentee ballots to inmates with misdemeanor convictions and those awaiting felony trials.

Suleman, who is listed as a founder of the Trumbull County (Ohio) Young Democrats, ran for office in the Buckeye State as a Democrat earlier this year. He said the office he holds in Virginia is nonpartisan.

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters