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Voting Rights Groups Ask Federal Court to Move Forward in Case Over Burdensome Voter Registration Requirements

Plaintiffs respectfully submitted in the brief that since the U.S. Election Assistance Commission was split over the executive director’s authority in the issue, it is time for the court to move forward and address the merits of the case.

August 8, 2017

Washington, D.C. – Today, on behalf of the League of Women Voters of the United States, Kansas, Alabama, and Georgia, the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law and co-counsel filed a brief in League of Women Voters vs. Newby, a case challenging a federal official’s decision to change federal voter registration forms to require documentary proof of citizenship in Kansas, Alabama, and Georgia. (That change is currently blocked by an earlier decision in this lawsuit.)

In the case, plaintiffs argue that Brian Newby, the executive director of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, was not authorized to make this change on behalf of the Commission, which Congress stipulated can only act with bipartisan agreement of three of the agency’s commissioners. In the briefs, plaintiffs point out that the agency was split along partisan lines over whether Newby acted within his purview, and acknowledged that they failed to reach a decision in a memo filed in federal court earlier this summer.

The Department of Justice also filed a brief today, asking the court not to decide whether the executive director had the authority to decide this issue. Instead, the Department asked the court to throw out Newby’s decision because it didn’t follow the process required under the federal Motor Voter Law, and send the issue back to the Commission.

The other litigants in the case are also expected to file briefs today. The litigants defending the documentary proof of citizenship include three members of the much-criticized Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity: Kris Kobach, Kansas Secretary of State and vice-chair of the Commission, and J. Christian Adams, president and general counsel of the Public Interest Legal Foundation. Christy McCormick, a commissioner on both the U.S. Election Assistance Commission and the president’s advisory commission, has repeatedly and unsuccessfully attempted to participate in the case on her own behalf.

Click here for a copy of the brief filed by plaintiffs today. In addition to the Brennan Center, counsel representing the League include pro bono law firms Strook & Stroock & Lavan, LLP and Kirkland & Ellis, LLP. Other litigants include Marvin Brown, JoAnn Brown, the Georgia State Conference of the NAACP, and Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda, represented by the ACLU, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and the law firm of Steptoe & Johnson LLP.

For further background on the lawsuit, visit the Brennan Center’s case page.

To set up an interview with a Brennan Center expert, please contact Rebecca Autrey at or 646–292–8316. To set up an interview with a League of Women Voters expert, please contact Sarah Courtney at or 202–263–1332.