Groups Ask Court for Immediate Halt of Voting Restrictions

February 17, 2016

A federal judge should immediately block U.S. Election Assistance Commission Executive Director Brian D. Newby’s action to allow three states to require documentary proof of citizenship on the federal voter registration form, according to a motion filed today by the League of Women Voters of the United States, along with its Alabama, Georgia, and Kansas state Leagues, and others.  The motion follows a lawsuit filed Friday in federal court.

Civil rights groups the Georgia NAACP, the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda, and Project Vote, along with Marvin Brown and JoAnn Brown, also joined the motion against the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC).

On January 29, 2016, Newby sent letters to the secretaries of state of Alabama, Georgia, and Kansas stating, without further explanation, that he would allow the three states to require citizenship documents for applicants using the federal registration form. The executive director did not have authority to allow the three states to enforce documentary proof of citizenship requirements on the federal form, and doing so violated both EAC policy and federal law, according to the lawsuit filed Friday by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law with pro bono counsel at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP; the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the American Civil Liberties Union with pro bono counsel Steptoe & Johnson LLP; and Project Vote with pro bono counsel Arnold & Porter LLP.

“The Executive Director’s decision will substantially burden the Plaintiffs’ ability to conduct voter registration drives, and will deprive eligible voters of the right to vote in federal, primary, and general elections,” according to a brief filed with the motion.  “Without a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction, the Executive Director’s unlawful actions will cause substantial, immediate, and irreparable harm to the Plaintiffs and voters in Alabama, Georgia, and Kansas." 

In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that Arizona could not require documentary proof of citizenship on the federal registration form without EAC approval. Last June, the Supreme Court also turned down a petition from Arizona and Kansas to hear Kobach v. United States Election Assistance Commission, thereby letting stand a Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling, which upheld an EAC determination that Arizona and Kansas may not force applicants using the federal voter registration form to show documents.

For comments on the lawsuit and further background on the lawsuit, see the Brennan Center’s February 12, 2016 press release.