White-Battle v. Democratic Party of Virginia

Decision Date29 June 2004
Docket NumberNo. CIV.A. 203CV897.,CIV.A. 203CV897.
Citation323 F.Supp.2d 696
PartiesSherry WHITE-BATTLE, Plaintiff, v. DEMOCRATIC PARTY OF VIRGINIA, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of Virginia

Sherry White-Battle, Norfolk, VA, for Plaintiff.

Stephen E. Heretick, Esquire, Portsmouth, VA, for Defendant Democratic Party of Virginia.

Robert B. Rigney, Esquire, A. Christopher Zaleski, Esquire, Protogyrou & Rigney PLC, Monticello Arcade, Norfolk, VA, for Defendant Norfolk City Democratic Committee.

S. Lawrence Dumville, Esquire, Norris & St. Clair, PC, Virginia Beach, VA, for Defendant George Schaefer.

Harold P. Juren, Esquire, Melvin Wayne Ringer, Esquire, Office of the City Attorney, Norfolk, VA, for Defendant Norfolk Electoral Board.

ORDER

MORGAN, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff Sherry White-Battle's ("Plaintiff") Motion for Preliminary Injunction (Document No. 5), Defendant Norfolk Electoral Board's Motion for Summary Judgment (Document No. 9), Defendant George Schaefer's Motion for Summary Judgment (Document No. 15), and Plaintiff's Motion for Default Judgment against the Democratic Party of Virginia (Document No. 28). On May 27, 2004, the Court heard argument on the Motions for Summary Judgment and the Motion for Default Judgment. For the reasons set forth in this Order, the Court DENIES Plaintiff's Motion for Preliminary Injunction, GRANTS the Norfolk Electoral Board's and George Schaefer's Motions for Summary Judgment, and DENIES Plaintiff's Motion for Default Judgment against the Democratic Party of Virginia.

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND1

On December 24, 2003, the Plaintiff filed a Complaint in this Court against the Democratic Party of Virginia ("the Party"), the Norfolk City Democratic Committee ("the Committee"), George Schaefer ("Schaefer"), and the Norfolk Electoral Board ("the Board"). (Document No. 1). The Plaintiff alleges that this Court has federal question jurisdiction to consider violations of her First, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendment rights, as well as Sections Five and Ten of the Voting Rights Acts of 1965, 42 U.S.C. § 1973(a), (b), (c), 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and 28 U.S.C. §§ 1343, 2201, and 2202. (Compl. at ¶ 9).

This action arises out of the Plaintiff's failed attempts to become the Democratic nominee in the election for the Clerk of the Norfolk Circuit Court (hereinafter, "Clerk"). On or about May 16, 2003, the Plaintiff filed a Certification of Candidate Qualification and additional papers with the General Registrar of the City of Norfolk, in order to qualify to be included on the November 2003 ballot for Clerk. (Compl. at ¶ 11). The Plaintiff believed that the Committee would hold a caucus on May 31, 2003 to select a Clerk nominee. (Compl. at ¶ 13). On or about May 16, 2003, the Plaintiff learned that the Committee's nomination period ended on March 28, 2003, and as a result, the Plaintiff could not become the Committee's nominee. (Compl. at ¶¶ 15-16, 19). The Plaintiff also learned that the Committee selected Schaefer as its nominee for the Clerk's election in the November 2003 Commonwealth General Election. (Compl. at ¶¶ 16, 19). Schaefer had been an active member of the Republican Party, having previously served as the Chairman of the City of Norfolk Republican Party. (Compl. at ¶ 17). The Plaintiff contacted Barbara Klear ("Klear"), Secretary for the Committee, who told the Plaintiff that there was no publication of a notice of caucus and did not state the date or location of the caucus. (Compl. at ¶ 19).

The Plaintiff objects to the selection process used to nominate Schaefer as the Committee nominee. First, the Plaintiff alleges that Schaefer's selection violated Va.Code Ann. § 24.2-510, because nominees were not to be selected prior to May 9, 2003, exactly 32 days before the primary date of June 10, 2003. (Compl. at ¶ 37). Second, the Plaintiff alleges that the Committee's selection meeting did not comply with Section 9.1 of the Virginia Democratic Party Plan or Article IX B of the Committee's By-Laws, because the notice, if any, was not published in a newspaper of general circulation in the City of Norfolk, including the date, time, agenda, place, and address of the caucus/meeting. (Compl. at ¶ 38).

The Plaintiff also objects to the manner in which the general election was administered. (Compl. at ¶¶ 44-111). The Plaintiff alleges five (5) errors in the election administration. First, the Plaintiff alleges that the voting machines malfunctioned resulting in vote miscounting. (Compl. at ¶ 54). One of the Plaintiff's representatives witnessed the breakdown of machines at two polling locations. (Williams Aff. at ¶ 1). The Plaintiff further states that Elisa Long, the General Registrar, advised her that "they had many serious problems with the machines breaking down in the precincts that evening." (Battle Aff. at ¶ 22). Second, Plaintiff's representatives were not allowed into two polling locations during the vote count. (Compl. at ¶¶ 61, 65-66). Carolyn Whitfield was prevented from observing the vote count at the Ballentine precinct, and Jean Fulcher was prevented from observing at the Lafayette-Winona precinct. (Whitfield Aff. at ¶ 9; Fulcher Aff. at ¶ 1). Third, the Plaintiff alleges that votes cast after 4:00 p.m. on election day were not counted. (Compl. at ¶¶ 79-80). In support of this claim, the Plaintiff states that she voted at the St. Andrews precinct at 5:30 p.m.; however, the Board's certified tallies from the St. Andrews precinct do not show any votes for that time period. (Pl.'s Mem. in Opp'n to the Board's Mot. for Summ. J. (hereinafter, "SJ Opp'n Memo") at 3; Battle Aff. at ¶¶ 1-2). Fourth, the Plaintiff claims that paper ballots cast at Zion Grace precinct were not accounted for. (Compl. at ¶ 69; Battle Aff. at ¶¶ 12, 34; Edmonds Aff. at ¶ 34). Fifth, the Plaintiff asserts that certain records were not made available to her after the election (Compl. at ¶ 86). Specifically, the Plaintiff's request for tally sheets, printed return sheets, and documentation of the votes, as required by Va.Code 24.2-642, went unanswered. (Battle Aff. at ¶ 12). The Plaintiff was initially denied the opportunity to inspect the poll books for all 55 Norfolk precincts (Battle Aff. at ¶ 26); however, the Plaintiff and Luther Edmonds, one of the Plaintiff's representatives, eventually inspected the voting tallies. (Edmonds Aff. at ¶ 18). Edmonds observed that poll book information and tallies were missing from five (5) precincts. (Id.). Edmonds was told that there were no tallies from the five precincts because the vote totals were called in on cellular telephones. (Id. at ¶ 20). Later, both the Plaintiff and Edmonds were allowed to inspect the certified tallies for these five precincts, but not the poll book information. (Id. at ¶ 24).

In Count I, the Plaintiff alleges violations of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Fifteenth Amendment. Specifically, the Plaintiff claims that as an African-American, she has the same right to run for public office and participate in the political process as white candidates, pursuant to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. (Compl. at ¶ 113). She further claims that the Defendants' actions constitute violations of her rights under the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1973(a)(c) and the Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. (Compl. at ¶ 114). The Plaintiff claims that the Defendants' actions were racially motivated to discriminate against and to exclude African-Americans from the position of Clerk. (Compl. at ¶ 115).

In Count II, the Plaintiff alleges that as an African-American, similarly situated as Schaefer, a white individual, she was denied equal protection of the law by the Defendants because of her race. (Compl. at ¶ 118).

In Count III, the Plaintiff alleges that the Defendants have violated her right to freedom of expression and association as protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. (Compl. at ¶ 122).

The Plaintiff requests the following relief: (1) a declaration that the Defendants, acting jointly and severally, violated her constitutional rights as alleged; (2) an injunction prohibiting the Defendants from swearing in Schaefer to the position of Clerk; (3) a declaration that Schaefer's election as Clerk is invalid and void; and (4) an injunction ordering that a special election be held in conformity with Va.Code Ann. §§ 24.2-226, 227.

On December 30, 2003, the Court held a hearing on Plaintiff's Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order. The Court denied Plaintiff's Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order. (Document No. 3). In doing so, the Court found that all factors weighed against issuing the temporary restraining order — e.g., presence of irreparable harm, balancing of harm to the parties, public interest, and likelihood of success on the merits. (Id.). On January 6, 2004, in the wake of the Court's decision, the Plaintiff filed a Motion for Preliminary Injunction. (Document No. 5). On January 27, 2004, the Board filed its Motion for Summary Judgment. (Document No. 9). On February 2, 2004, Schaefer filed its Motion for Summary Judgment. (Document No. 15). Finally, on April 7, 2004, the Plaintiff filed a Motion for Default Judgment against the Party. (Document No. 28). The Court heard argument on the Motions for Summary Judgment and Motion for Default Judgment on May 27, 2004.

II. APPLICABLE LAW
A. PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION STANDARD

This Court follows the four-part test of Blackwelder Furniture Co. of Statesville, Inc. v. Seilig Mfg. Co., Inc., 550 F.2d 189 (4th Cir.1977) when deciding whether to grant a plaintiff's motion for preliminary injunction. Scotts Co. v. United Indus. Corp., 315 F.3d 264, 271 (4th Cir.2002). The Court must consider: "(1) the likelihood of irreparable harm to the plaintiff if the preliminary injunction is denied, (2) the likelihood of harm to the...

To continue reading

Request your trial
4 cases
  • PERRY-BEY v. CITY OF NORFOLK, VA.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Eastern District of Virginia
    • January 15, 2009
    ...Roberts, 883 F.2d at 621 ("The purpose of the Voting Rights Act is to protect minority voters...."); White-Battle v. Democratic Party of Virginia, 323 F.Supp.2d 696, 703 (E.D.Va.2004) ("the purpose of the Voting Rights Act is to protect minority voters...."); Newman v. Voinovich, 789 F.Supp......
  • Owen-Williams v. Higgs
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Maryland
    • February 5, 2019
    ...process" and holding that election of political party officers did not constitute such state action); White-Battle v. Democratic Party of Va., 323 F.Supp.2d 696, 708 (E.D.Va. 2004), aff'd, 134 F.App'x 641 (4th Cir. 2005) (The Norfolk City Democratic Committee was not a "state actor for purp......
  • Lecky v. Va. State Bd. of Elections
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Eastern District of Virginia
    • January 11, 2018
    ...Ill. 1969).17 Shannon , 394 F.3d at 90 ; Hennings v. Grafton , 523 F.2d 861, 863–64 (7th Cir. 1975) ; White–Battle v. Democratic Party of Virginia , 323 F.Supp.2d 696, 705 (E.D.Va. 2004).18 Powell v. Power , 436 F.2d 84 (2d Cir. 1970).19 Harris Cty. Dep't of Educ. v. Harris Cty., Tex. , 201......
  • Voters Organized for the Integrity of Elections v. Balt. City Elections Bd.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Maryland
    • October 13, 2016
    ...Newton has no standing under the Act as a candidate, rather than as a voter in Baltimore City. See White–Battle v. Democratic Party of Va. , 323 F.Supp.2d 696, 702–03 (E.D. Va. 2004) ("It is well-settled that unsuccessful candidates lack standing to sue under the Voting Rights Act of 1965";......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT