WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and its pro bono counsel Hogan Lovells US LLP, and the Law Office of Bryan L. Sells, LLC., announced a major victory Wednesday related to its lawsuit challenging a Georgia law that cuts off voter registration for federal run-off elections two months earlier than guaranteed under federal law. Under a consent order entered by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia on Tuesday, the state cannot prescribe a voter registration deadline in any federal election, including all future federal runoffs, that is longer than the deadline provided under state law and in no case longer than 30 days before an election.
“This consent agreement ensures that eligible Georgians will not be unfairly cut off from registering to vote and participating in federal runoff elections because of an arbitrary state voter registration deadline that violates federal law,” said Julie Houk, senior special counsel in the Voting Rights Project of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “Voter registration should not be impeded by a deadline that serves no purpose other than to disenfranchise eligible Georgians. With the consent agreement reached today, we have taken down one troubling method of vote suppression.”
“It is very gratifying that the state has recognized that federal law requires keeping the voter registration rolls open until 30 days before any federal election,” said Ira Feinberg, a partner at Hogan Lovells. “Federal and state laws ought to encourage all eligible voters to register and vote, not impose arbitrary and unnecessary restrictions on voter participation.”
“This is a step forward for all Georgia voters, who will now have more opportunity to participate in important runoff elections,” said Bryan L. Sells, who served as local counsel in the case.
The Lawyers’ Committee and its partners filed a lawsuit in April, ahead of the special runoff election in Georgia’s 6th Congressional district, challenging the state’s registration deadline for the federal runoff election. May, the Honorable Timothy Batten, Sr., United States District Court Judge for the Northern District of Georgia, issued a preliminary injunction in the case, concluding that the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 takes precedence over conflicting state laws when conducting federal elections. As a result of the deadline being extended, nearly 8,000 new voters were able to register to participate in the June 20th special election.
Plaintiffs in the case are the Georgia Coalition for the Peoples’ Agenda, Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta, Inc., the Georgia NAACP, Third Sector Development, Inc. (parent of the New Georgia Project), and ProGeorgia State Table, Inc., all organizations that devote considerable resources to registering voters, particularly minority citizens, and Jill Boyd Myers, an affected voter who moved into the Sixth Congressional District shortly after registration closed in March.
The Georgia case is part of the Lawyers’ Committee’s ongoing efforts to combat voting discrimination and voter suppression across the country. In the past year and a half, the Lawyer’s Committee has filed close to 18 voting rights lawsuits across the country – more than the U.S. Department of Justice.
A copy of the settlement is available online.
About the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law:
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, 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. Now in its 54th year, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is continuing its quest “Move America Toward Justice.” The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice for all, particularly in the areas of criminal justice, fair housing and community development, economic justice, educational opportunities, and voting rights.