Virginia Democratic Primary Candidate Files Suit Against Party

by Madison Hirneisen


A Democratic candidate who appeared on the ballot in Tuesday’s 4th Congressional District firehouse primary filed a lawsuit accusing the Democratic Party of Virginia of placing an “unconstitutional burden” on voters due to the placement of polling sites.

Tavorise Marks, a civil rights advocate and a candidate who appeared on Tuesday’s ballot, claims the party “in its ‘firehouse primary’ scheme has created an unconstitutional burden on potential voters in the 15 jurisdictions of the 4th Congressional District.”

The lawsuit highlights the placement of eight polling locations in the district, alleging voting locations were established in just 7 of 15 jurisdictions in the firehouse primary. As a result, the lawsuit claims the party “denied voters in the other 8 jurisdictions the right to cast their ballot in their home jurisdiction,” resulting in some voters traveling outside of their jurisdictions in order to vote.

“Such a traveling requirement is apparently unprecedented in any such election in Virginia,” the lawsuit states.

Eight polling locations were available for voters from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday during the party-run primary. In a typical state-run nomination process, the 15 jurisdictions have over 200 voting locations, according to the lawsuit.

“The 4th [congressional district], in terms of geography, extends from Richmond to roughly the North Carolina border,” the lawsuit states. “On its face, allocating only eight voting locations to an electoral district the geographic size of the 4th CD is constitutionally flawed.”

Paul Goodman, a Democratic attorney and activist who had previously filed a lawsuit alleging the 2021 House of Delegates elections were unconstitutional, is listed alongside Marks as plaintiff in the lawsuit. Goldman had initially filed a similar lawsuit against the Democratic Party of Virginia, Gov. Glenn Youngkin and state election officials last week, according to court records. Marks joined the lawsuit and filed amendments Wednesday, according to court records.

Marks told The Center Square in an interview the closest polling location was more than an hour away for some voters living in the southern part of the district, making it difficult for some to cast a ballot. Three of the eight polling locations were in the Richmond area, while Chesterfield, Charles City, Petersburg, Surrey and Brunswick each got one location.

“When you have a case where voters can’t get out and vote for their candidate of choice, that’s nothing but suppression 101,” Marks said. “That’s the basis of this actual lawsuit. It has nothing to do with campaigns, nothing to do with me as a candidate, and everything to do with me as a voter and other fellow voters.”

Liam Watson, the interim press secretary for the Democratic Party of Virginia, told The Center Square in an email that the party “does not comment on ongoing legal proceedings.” Officials from the Democratic Party of Virginia have defended their process for the primary, arguing that a firehouse primary provided the greatest access for voters.

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Madison Hirneisen is a staff reporter covering Virginia and West Virginia for The Center Square. Madison previously covered California for The Center Square out of Los Angeles, but recently relocated to the DC area. Her reporting has appeared in several community newspapers and The Washington Times.
Photo “Tavorise Marks” by Dwayne Morris Photography. Background Photo “Voting Booths” by Tim Evanson. CC BY-SA 2.0.



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