Federal Lawsuit Claims New York City Board of Elections Actions Violate National Voter Registration Act
Washington, D.C. — Today, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee), together with LatinoJustice PRLDEF and the law firm of Dechert LLP, filed suit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York. The lawsuit seeks emergency relief restoring the voting rights of New York City voters who were improperly removed from the rolls to ensure that their ballots will be counted this election cycle.
The suit claims that the New York City Board of Elections removed voters from the rolls who relocated within New York City without waiting for the grace period mandated by federal law. The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 mandates that any voter who moves within New York City can be removed from the rolls only if the voter receives notification from the Board of Elections, fails to respond to that notice, gets placed into “inactive” status, and then fails to vote in the two subsequent federal elections. Since the New York City Board of Elections has expunged voters without waiting for two federal election cycles, eligible New York City voters will be unable to cast a ballot in the upcoming election.
Just this year, the New York City Board of Elections confirmed that more than 126,000 Brooklyn voters were removed from the rolls between the summer of 2015 and the April 2016 primary election. Reports indicate that this included 70,000 people who were taken off the list entirely after have previously been in inactive status. Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act makes clear that voters may be removed from a registration list for a federal election in limited circumstances: when the registrant has died, if mentally incapacitated or convicted of certain crimes, at the request of the registrant or if the registrant has moved and certain procedures are followed. The New York City Board of Elections does not comply with the clear requirements set forth by federal law.
“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 eligible voters from the rolls,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee. “With just days before the election, it’s especially important to make sure every eligible voter can exercise their fundamental right to vote at the ballot box. All eligible voters in New York City should be able to cast a ballot that will be counted on Election Day.”
“This suit seeks to ensure that all eligible voters in New York City, including Latina and Latino voters, are able to exercise that right in the upcoming election, and that the New York City Board of Elections remains in compliance with the federal law.” said Joanna E. Cuevas Ingram, associate counsel with LatinoJustice PRLDEF.
“The National Voter Registration Act clearly defines those standards that must be met before a voter’s name can be erased from the rolls,” said Neil Steiner, a partner at Dechert LLP, which is representing the plaintiffs pro bono. “In this case, New York City Board of Election’s stated adherence to a contrary state statute has disenfranchised eligible voters.”
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/.
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