Voting Rights

  • September 25, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Dan Froomkin

    The Justice Department's recent about-face on a voting rights case was such a betrayal of long-standing DOJ policy that a group of former political appointees and career lawyers filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court on Friday, citing more than two decades of consistent enforcement of the rule in question – until Trump.

    In a possibly unprecedented move, the former Justice lawyers essentially made an argument on behalf of the Department as an institution, representing itself in opposition to its current leadership.

    "Amici submit this brief in their individual capacities to provide the Court with the Department’s longstanding view of the Question Presented, the view the current administration has abandoned," the brief says.

  • September 25, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Hannah Fried and Alexis Prieur L’Heureux, founders, Access Democracy

    September has been a terrible month for natural disasters in this country: wildfires lit up the Pacific Northwest; hurricanes battered southern states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands; and flooding from these storms inundated entire communities. More than 13 million Americans have experienced direct impacts from these powerful events.

  • August 23, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Matthew Segal, legal director, ACLU of Massachusetts

    The Trump Administration has embarked on a campaign of voter suppression. Its actions, including creating a Voter “Integrity” Commission fueled by false claims of voter fraud, and filing a brief defending Ohio’s voter purges, seems not just destined but designed to keep Americans from voting. This campaign risks eroding the voting rights of historically disenfranchised groups of people not only overtly but also insidiously, in ways that go well beyond any single voter suppression measure.

    The insidious nature of these efforts is that they draw our collective attention to malicious attempts to keep people of color and young people from exercising their right to vote. This focus, in turn, can desensitize us to disenfranchisement that is needless, yet not malicious.

  • August 17, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Franita Tolson, Professor of Law, University of Southern California Gould School of Law

    Under the National Voter Registration Act (“NVRA”), states can remove an individual from the voter rolls if the person confirms, in writing, that he or she has moved, or if he or she has failed to respond to an address verification notice and has failed to vote in two consecutive federal elections.  52 U.S.C. 20507(d).  The NVRA is clear, however, that individuals cannot be removed solely for failing to vote.  52 U.S.C. 20507(b)(2). At issue in A. Philip Randolph Institute v. Husted, which will be argued this fall before the U.S. Supreme Court, is whether a state can use a person’s failure to vote as a trigger to send the address verification notice required by section 20507(d).  Under 20507(c), states are free to contract the post office to obtain the names of those individuals who have filed a change of address form and then send notices to those individuals.  In addition to obtaining names from the post office, Ohio also sends notices to those voters who have not engaged in any “voter activity” for two years, such as filing an address change on a voter registration card or with a state agency, or voting, either provisionally, through an absentee ballot, or in person on election day.

  • July 10, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Joshua A. Douglas, Robert G. Lawson & William H. Fortune Associate Professor of Law, University of Kentucky College of Law

    While doom-and-gloom seems to dominate voting rights news these days, there is also positive work happening on the ground to enhance the right to vote. That is the goal of a lawsuit in Massachusetts, showing the importance of playing offense instead of defense in an effort to expand democratic participation.

    Voters in Massachusetts, along with the ACLU, are challenging Massachusetts’s 20-day registration deadline. Under the law, a voter may not cast a ballot on Election Day unless he or she has registered at least 20 days in advance of the election. The plaintiffs in Massachusetts argue that the government has no need for this registration deadline and that requiring people to register ahead of Election Day deprives those who do not comply of their constitutionally-protected right to vote. They literally cannot vote if they do not register ahead of the election and yet given modern technology, the state has no need for the 20-day requirement.

    The plaintiffs have already won, in part. Just before the 2016 election, state judge Douglas Wilkins found that Massachusetts had failed to demonstrate a “real reason, grounded in data, facts, or other evidence,” for the registration deadline. The court noted, “The right to vote is fundamental, as guaranteed by the Massachusetts Constitution.” The registration deadline deprived the three plaintiffs of this fundamental right. The court therefore allowed them to cast their ballots even though they had not registered in time. Yet that decision did not resolve the ultimate question of the constitutionality of a registration deadline before Election Day. The court is now considering that question, hearing testimony from voters, election experts, and state officials.