The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a two-sentence order, today rejected Democrat Henry E. Howell's complaint that Virginia's voter registration laws discriminate against blue collar and salaried workers who cannot leave their jobs to register.
An appeals court panel of three judges unanimously upheld a ruling by District Court Judge D. Dortch Warriner that the state laws do not violate "any federal standards."
Howell, a candidate for governor in the June 14 Democratic primary, was not immediately available for comment. He had said previously he intended to carry the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, if necessary, to reverse state laws that allow some rural counties to open their registration books as seldom as one day a week.
In a suit against state election officials. Howell maintained that without night-time registration many workers were unable to register to vote and that rural Virginians had fewer opportunities to register than did urban residents.
The appeals court said that the current registration rules "do not impose such a burden upon a statewide candidate of the Democratic party seeking nomination, or upon persons who seek to register and vote in the primary election as to violate any federal rights."
The appeals court acted with extraordinary spee in deciding the case, which Warriner had heard on Tuesday. Both Howell and the state agreed to waive oral arguments before the court in hopes of getting a ruling before May 14, the deadline for registering to vote in the primary.
Howell, who built his early political base fighting with state officials over election laws and utility regulations, had sought a court order requiring nighttime voter registration in 14 localities where he said many workers would be unable to register prior to the May 14 deadline.