For Immediate Release
Monday, November 15, 2004
Natalia Kennedy, 212 998–6736
Disenfranchised Citizens File Complaint to Challenge Registration Deadline
New York, NY – An amended complaint was filed on Friday, November 12, 2004 to name as plaintiffs individual voters who were disenfranchised by Connecticuts 14-day registration deadline. The plaintiffs, who wanted to cast a ballot on November 2nd for offices other than President and Vice President but were unable because of Connecticuts registration deadline, allege that the deadline violates the Constitution. The case goes to trial in February. If plaintiffs prevail, eligible citizens will be able to register and vote for all offices on Election Day.
Connecticut currently has a divided registration system, allowing people to vote on Election Day in presidential elections, but not in other federal, state or municipal general elections.
The initial complaint in this groundbreaking lawsuit was filed in September 2004. The suit is the first to seek Election Day Registration or “EDR” as a cure for the disenfranchisement of eligible voters.
Plaintiffs were unable to vote in the congressional and state races on November 2nd because of Connecticuts registration deadline. Some examples of people who were disenfranchised include:
An Indian man, who just became a United States citizen, but was never informed during the citizenship process how to register. He thought a registration form would be mailed to him like in his native country. One week before the election, he approached a candidate for U.S. Congress to express his interest in voting and learned that it was too late to register in the upcoming election.
An ex-felon, who went directly from prison to his town clerks office to vote for President, but could not vote for other races on the ballot because the registration deadline had passed while he was incarcerated.
A Peruvian citizen, who attempted to register online, but got confused about what proof of residence was required. He planned to go to the registrars office to register in person, but never made it because his mother had a stroke the day before the deadline and he was busy caring for her.
A full-time student and former marine, who was given incorrect information regarding his right to register to vote in his school community. He filled out a registration form with his school address, but was told by his grandmother that he had to register with his moms address because that is where he pays taxes and registers his car. He planned to go in-person to register in his moms town, but did not make it there in time because of school and work commitments.
The defendant in the suit, Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz, testified on February 9, 2004 that she “strongly supports EDR” and that the most recent legislation on the subject “balances voter rights with a stronger identification process than we already have in place.”
“Eligible voters in Connecticut want their voices to be heard,” says Jennifer Weiser, associate counsel of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. “There is no reason why they should be able to cast a vote for President, but not for other federal, state, and local candidates. With Election Day Registration, eligible citizens will be able to participate in all levels of democracy.”
In addition to the nine plaintiffs named in the complaint, there are several organizational plaintiffs: ACORN, Connecticut Common Cause, Connecticut Citizen Action Group, Connecticut Public Interest Research Group, People for the American Way, Working Families Party, and Democracy Works. The Brennan Center and the Connecticut Civil Liberties Union, joined by Stanley A. Twardy, Jr. at Day, Berry & Howard LLP and Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP, represent plaintiffs.
The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, founded in 1995, unites thinkers and advocates in pursuit of a vision of inclusive and effective democracy. Its mission is to develop and implement an innovative, nonpartisan agenda of scholarship, public education, and legal action that promotes equality and human dignity, while safeguarding fundamental freedoms. Please visit www.brennancenter.org.