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Registration Challenges

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Hunter v. Hamilton County Board of Elections (1:16-cv-962) and Hunter v. Hamilton County Board of Elections (1:16-cv-996) (Michael R. Barrett, S.D. Ohio)
A plaintiff convicted in state court of a felony filed a federal complaint on September 27, 2016, seeking an order requiring the county board of elections to accept her voter registration because her sentence had been stayed by the district court in a habeas corpus action, so she was not incarcerated. A district judge granted the plaintiff relief on October 6. A second federal complaint filed pro se on October 11 seeking the plaintiff’s certification as a candidate for juvenile court was not successful, because the plaintiff had been disbarred as a result of her conviction.
Subject: Nullifying registrations. Topics: Registration challenges; getting on the ballot; case assignment; pro se party; attorney fees.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

Available Online Only

Democratic National Committee v. Republican National Committee (Dickinson R. Debevoise and John Michael Vazquez, D.N.J. 2:81-cv-3876), Arizona Democratic Party v. Arizona Republican Party (John J. Tuchi, D. Ariz. 2:16-cv-3752), Nevada State Democratic Party v. Nevada Republican Party (Richard F. Boulware II, D. Nev. 2:16-cv-2514), Ohio Democratic Party v. Ohio Republican Party (James S. Gwin, N.D. Ohio 1:16-cv-2645), Pennsylvania Democratic Party v. Republican Party of Pennsylvania (Paul S. Diamond, E.D. Pa. 2:16-cv-5664), North Carolina Democratic Party v. North Carolina Republican Party (Catherine C. Eagles, M.D.N.C. 1:16-cv-1288), and Michigan Democratic Party v. Michigan Republican Party (Mark A. Goldsmith, E.D. Mich. 2:16-cv-13924)
In 2004, a voter in Ohio moved to intervene in a 1981 District of New Jersey case, complaining that widespread voter registration challenges in Ohio violated a consent decree between the two major political parties in the New Jersey case. On the day before the election, the district court in New Jersey granted injunctive relief. A panel of the court of appeals, over a dissent, denied the defendants a stay, but the full court ordered en banc review on election day. Because the plaintiff was allowed to vote, the appeal was subsequently declared moot. In 2016, a suit was again filed in the District of New Jersey to enforce and extend the consent decree. Related actions were filed in six other states, plaintiffs were denied immediate relief there, and the actions were dismissed voluntarily after the election. A little more than one year later, the consent decree was terminated.
Subject: Campaign activities. Topics: Registration challenges; intervention; enforcing orders; laches; case assignment.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

Available Online Only

North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP v. North Carolina State Board of Elections (Loretta C. Biggs, M.D.N.C. 1:16-cv-1274)
Eight days before a presidential election, a federal complaint challenged widespread cancelation of voter registrations based on single instances of undeliverable mail. Finding that the National Voter Registration Act proscribed systematic voter registration cancelations less than 90 days before a federal election and proscribed cancelations based on evidence of residence changes before two federal elections had occurred, a district judge enjoined the voter registration cancelation program at issue in an opinion issued four days before the election. The judge issued a permanent injunction about two years later.
Subject: Nullifying registrations. Topics: Registration challenges; National Voter Registration Act.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

Available Online Only

Spencer v. Blackwell (Susan J. Dlott, S.D. Ohio 1:04-cv-738) and Summit County Democratic Central and Executive Committee v. Blackwell (John R. Adams, N.D. Ohio 5:04-cv-2165)
Federal complaints were filed in both of Ohio’s districts late in the week before the 2004 general election challenging an Ohio statute that permitted political parties to appoint poll watchers to challenge persons who may be voting illegitimately. Both judges issued injunctions on Sunday, but the court of appeals stayed the injunctions on Monday.
Subject: Polling place activities. Topics: Registration challenges; intervention.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

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.

Available Online Only

Prye v. Blunt (Ortrie D. Smith, W.D. Mo. 2:04-cv-4248)
A prospective voter filed a federal complaint one month before a general election challenging a state’s disqualification of voters under guardianship. The district judge denied the plaintiff immediate relief because of state court opportunities to reserve voting rights in limited guardianship. For similar reasons, the judge granted defendants summary judgment against a substituted plaintiff who was erroneously denied the vote because of a misunderstanding about the plaintiff’s reserved voting rights. The court of appeals affirmed the summary judgment because the substituted plaintiff had already received a remedy and an advocacy organization co-plaintiff did not have standing to represent the interests of mere constituents.
Topics: Registration challenges; matters for state courts.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

Available Online Only

Miller v. Blackwell (Susan J. Dlott, S.D. Ohio 1:04-cv-735)
One week before the 2004 general election, the Democratic Party filed a federal complaint challenging widespread voter registration challenges—approximately 22,000—by the Republican Party based on returned mail. The court enjoined administrative hearings on the challenges through the election. After the election, the plaintiffs dropped the case.
Topics: Registration challenges; intervention; class action; enforcing orders.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

Available Online Only

Golisano v. Pataki (John Gleeson, E.D.N.Y. 1:02-cv-4784)
The district judge denied enhanced identification requirements at a minor party’s primary election for governor on allegations of widespread recent fraudulent registrations.
Topics: Registration challenges; voter identification; primary election; matters for state courts.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

Available Online Only

McCormick v. Wayne County Election Commission (Arthur J. Tarnow, E.D. Mich. 2:14-cv-12016)
Two and one-half months before a primary election for a county commission, a candidate filed a pro se federal complaint seeking exclusion from the ballot of two other candidates for failure to actually live in the district. At an evidentiary hearing, during which the plaintiff was represented by counsel, the plaintiff was not able to establish fraudulent residency, so the court denied her a preliminary injunction.
Topics: Getting on the ballot; registration challenges; primary election; pro se party; intervention.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

Available Online Only

United States v. Florida (Robert L. Hinkle, N.D. Fla. 4:12-cv-285)
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit determined that a systematic purge of noncitizens’ voter registrations violates the National Voter Registration Act. During the 2012 election cycle, the Justice Department brought a federal action against Florida in the Northern District of Florida claiming that Florida was violating the Act. Fifteen days later, the district court ruled against preliminary injunctive relief, because Florida had ceased the purge that prompted the suit. In addition, the district judge ruled that the 90-day proscription against systematic purges did not apply to noncitizens. In another case, a judge in the Southern District came to the same conclusion. Florida resumed its purge upon access to more reliable citizenship data from the Department of Homeland Security. In 2014, the court of appeals held a systematic purge even of noncitizens illegal shortly before an election, when there is little time to correct errors.
Topics: Citizenship; registration challenges; National Voter Registration Act; intervention; recusal; case assignment.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

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