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Cancellation of Voter Registrations for Not Voting in the Last Election

Robert Timothy Reagan, Margaret S. Williams, Marie Leary, Catherine R. Borden, Jessica L. Snowden, Patricia D. Breen, Jason A. Cantone
March 28, 2017
Available Online Only

Colón Marrero v. Pérez (Carmen Consuelo Cerezo, D.P.R. 3:12-cv-1749)
Five days before a September 17, 2012, voter registration deadline in Puerto Rico, a voter filed a federal complaint challenging the cancellation of her registration because she had not voted in the 2008 general election. The district judge denied the voter immediate relief because (1) the National Voter Registration Act does not apply to Puerto Rico as it does to the states, (2) the Help America Vote Act does not afford a private right of action, and (3) the plaintiff had not justified her bringing the case so late. The court of appeals, on the other hand, found probable success on the merits and remanded the case for an evidentiary hearing. On October 18, the court of appeals determined that relief for the plaintiff had become infeasible. In November, the court of appeals vacated an order issued in the plaintiff’s favor by the district court judge under the All Writs Act. After further litigation, the court issued a declaratory judgment in favor of the plaintiffs, which was affirmed on appeal. The courts ruled that canceling a federal voter registration after missing only one general election violates HAVA. In 2017, the court awarded the plaintiffs $135,931 in attorney fees.
Topics: Registration challenges; National Voter Registration Act; Help America Vote Act (HAVA); laches; enforcing orders; attorney fees.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.