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Voting rights groups sue election official over voter registration

[JURIST] A partnership of voting rights groups on Friday filed suit [complaint, PDF] against Brian Newby [EAC profile], executive director for the US Election Assistance Commission (EAC), alleging that his recent decision limiting the use of national voter registration in Alabama, Kansas and Georgia deprives eligible voters from the right to vote. On request from the states' governments, Newby unilaterally instituted a requirement that voters seeking to use the federal mail voter registration must provide proof of citizenship. This, the complaint alleges, violates the Help America Vote Act of 2002, which requires the full EAC to vote on any such changes. The plaintiffs, including the League of Women Voters (LWV) [advocacy website], claim that Newby's actions were illegal and should be promptly overturned. "This is now the fifth time that the EAC has been pushed to give a different answer to the same question," said Elisabeth MacNamara, president of the LWV, "[e]nough is enough. They can keep coming back but we will not tire of making sure they continue to fail." The LWV is represented by the Brennan Center for Justice [official website] and its director Wendy Weiser, who said, "[t]his change was unauthorized and illegal, and is hugely detrimental to voters in Alabama, Georgia, and Kansas. ... With presidential primaries fast approaching, these citizens deserve clarity on how—or if—they can register to vote."

Voting rights remain a controversial legal issue in the US. Last month a judge for the US District Court of the Middle District of North Carolina declined to grant [JURIST report] a motion by the NAACP and other plaintiffs that would have kept the state from implementing a voter identification law in the upcoming March elections. In May the New Hampshire Supreme Court struck down [JURIST report] a 2012 law requiring voters to be state residents, not just domiciled in the state. In March the US Supreme Court denied certiorari [JURIST report] to hear challenges to Wisconsin's voter ID law. Also in March Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed a new law [JURIST report] that made Oregon the first state in the nation to institute automatic voter registration. A federal appeals court rejected [JURIST report] a Kansas rule that required prospective voters to show proof-of-citizenship documents before registering using a federal voter registration form in November 2014.

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