A survey of more than 225 Virginia election officials and registrars shows they overwhelmingly oppose election day voter registration because they say it could lead to severe administrative problems and possible fraud.
The Carter administration has strongly backed a bill making it mandatory for all states to permit voters to register and vote on the same day. However, when it became apparent last week that sufficient Congressional support might be lacking, the proposed legislation was watered down to make same-day voter registration optional -enssentially the situation now. The bill is expected to reach the House floor today.
Results of the Virginia survey were re leased at a press conference held shortly before the weaker version of bill was announced. They indicated that same-day voter registration probably will not come voluntarily to Virginia.
Fears of chaos at the polis and a belief that "special interest groups are trying to steal the 1980 elelction" were expressed by Millard C. Rappleyea Sr., a member of the Fairfax County electrol board and one of several election officials from Fairfax, Arlington and Prince William counties attending the press conference.
Nancy Haddon, Prince William County registrar, noted that the original measure mean that the potential for another Chicago (a reference to the circumstances surrounding the close vote for John F. Kennedy in Cook County, I11., in 1960) is there especially in close elections."
Haydon and Rappleyea said that under the present sysyem, which provides for statewide cross-checking of voting lists, abuse is "virtually ninexistent".
Survey respondents said they believed same-day registration would discourage earlier registration, causing voters to face long lines at the poils on election day. This would result in "unnecessary anger and confusion," said Rappleyea.
Fairfax County registra Eve Newman said the costs of additional staff and machines presented a problem. "It's hard to jugde where people will turin out. We might plan for a large turnout in Reston and find that everyone went to Mt. Vernon."
She continued, =Local jurisdictions sometimes just don't come through with the money." despite federal legislation.
The survey also federal revealed widespread opposition to same-day registration at a central location, which has been successfully adopted by Maine and Oregon. Increasing night and Saturday hours were opposed because officials said no tenough people show up.
"Abuse seems to be early nonexistent now." Rappleyea concluded. "A lot of things turn people off to the political process but it's not the inability to register."