Federal Lawsuit Claims New York City Board of Elections Actions Violate National Voter Registration Act
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee), together with Common Cause/New York, LatinoJustice PRLDEF and the law firm of Dechert LLP, applaud New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for filing a motion to intervene in their lawsuit against the New York City Board of Elections (NYC BOE).
The New York Attorney General’s motion comes on the heels of U.S. District Court Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis granting the U.S. Department of Justice’s separate motion to intervene. DOJ filed its motion on January 12, and Judge Garaufis granted it on January 18.
The lawsuit seeks to restore the voting rights of New York City voters who have been improperly removed from the rolls in violation of Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA). This includes the more than 117,000 registered voters who were removed from the voter registration rolls prior to the April 2016 primary election by the NYC BOE’s Brooklyn Borough Office. As a result of the lawsuit, filed five days before the November 2016 election, the NYC BOE previously consented to providing various forms of notice to poll workers and voters concerning the requirement that all voters who believe they are registered must be offered an affidavit ballot on Election Day. The NYC BOE also agreed to send absentee ballots to individual plaintiffs who had been improperly purged from the registration list.
“The actions taken by the New York City Board of Elections constitute a ‘text book’ violation of the National Voter Registration Act and have resulted in the unlawful purging of thousands of voters from the rolls,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee. “We applaud Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for joining with the U.S. Department of Justice to weigh in on the voting rights violation in this case. Our democracy works when every eligible voter can exercise their fundamental right to vote at the ballot box.”
“Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is a dependable and steadfast ally in the fight for universal voting rights, and our case is stronger with his support,” said Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause/NY. “We are all committed to delivering fair and accessible elections for all New York voters.”
“We welcome the New York Attorney General’s intervention, and we will continue to seek documentation from the NYC Board of Elections with the full force of the law,” said Joanna Cuevas Ingram, associate counsel for LatinoJustice PRLDEF. “When news of the unlawful voter purges first came to light, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, Common Cause and Lawyers’ Committee joined a press conference on April 25, 2016, noting that we would seek federal oversight from the USDOJ, and that we also welcomed a thorough investigation from the New York State Attorney General. The Supreme Court’s holding in Shelby County v. Holder in 2013 effectively removed three counties in NYC from Section 5 federal preclearance protections under the Voting Rights Act (VRA), which would have likely prevented this harm from occurring in the first place. As we welcomed intervention from the USDOJ earlier this month, we similarly applaud intervention from the New York Attorney General, making it very clear that the harm to New York voters is unacceptable and cannot happen again.”
“We are committed to making it possible for all eligible citizens to exercise the fundamental right to vote and participate in our democracy, and look forward to working with the NY AG as well as the DOJ to ensure that happens for all New Yorkers,” said Neil Steiner, a partner at Dechert LLP, which is representing the plaintiffs pro bono.
Plaintiffs in the suit include voters affected by New York City Board of Election’s actions and Common Cause/New York.
About the Lawyers’ Committee
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. Formed over 50 years ago, we continue our quest of “Moving America Toward Justice.” The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice under law, particularly in the areas of fair housing and community development; employment; voting; education; environmental justice; and criminal justice. For more information about the Lawyers’ Committee, visit www.lawyerscommittee.org.
About LatinoJustice PRLDEF
LatinoJustice PRLDEF, originally established as the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund (PRLDEF) in 1972, is one of the foremost national nonprofit civil rights legal defense and education funds working to advance, promote, and protect the legal rights of Latina/os throughout the nation. Our work is focused on addressing systemic discrimination and ensuring equal access to justice in the advancement of voting rights, housing rights, educational equity, immigrant rights, language access rights, employment rights, and workplace justice, seeking to address all forms of discriminatory bias that adversely impact Latina/os. For more information on LatinoJustice, please visit: www.latinojustice.org.
About Dechert LLP:
Dechert LLP is a global specialist law firm focused on sectors with the greatest complexities and highest regulatory demands. We deliver practical commercial insight and judgment to our clients’ most important matters. Nothing stands in the way of giving clients the best of the firm’s entrepreneurial energy and seamless collaboration in a way that is distinctively Dechert. For more information about Dechert LLP, visit https://www.dechert.com/.