On June 11, 2012, the Lawyers’ Committee, together with pro bono counsel Dechert LLP and Woodburn & Wedge and other litigation partners, filed suit in federal court to remedy the failure of Nevada state officials to provide voter registration services at state public assistance offices, as required by the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA). This is the seventh such lawsuit filed by the Lawyers’ Committee and its partners to address widespread violations of the NVRA at state public assistance offices across the country.
The NVRA requires that all public assistance offices in Nevada distribute a voter registration application each time a client applies for benefits, recertifies, or fills out a change of address form. The evidence, including data reported by the State to the federal Election Assistance Commission, and recent surveys of public assistance offices and clients, show that Nevada has been failing to fulfill its voter registration responsibilities for many years.
In this lawsuit, the Lawyers’ Committee represents the National Council of La Raza, the Las Vegas Branch of the NAACP, and the Reno-Sparks Branch of the NAACP. Our litigation partners include Project Vote, Dēmos, and the NAACP. Defendants are the Nevada Secretary of State and the Director of the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services.
The lawsuit requests an injunction requiring defendants to take all necessary action to bring the State into compliance with the NVRA. This should include proper procedures for distributing voter registration applications, training of public assistance office personnel as to their voter registration responsibilities, and measures to monitor ongoing compliance.
On December 19, 2012, U.S. District Judge Robert C. Jones dismissed the lawsuit, ruling that the pre-litigation notice provided by plaintiffs to the State, as required by the NVRA, was not done sufficiently in advance of filing their lawsuit. Judge Jones also ruled that plaintiffs did not have constitutional standing to maintain their lawsuit.
Plaintiffs appealed the district court’s decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and filed their opening brief before the Ninth Circuit on April 22, 2013.
On September 3, 2015, the Ninth Circuit reversed the district court on the standing and notice issues. The Ninth Circuit also required the case to be reassigned to a new district judge on remand.
Following remand, the parties settled the matter on March 11, 2016. The settlement includes a robust plan for ensuring that low-income citizens are provided voter registration services through public assistance agencies, as required by the NVRA.
To read the Complaint, please click here.
To read the Settlement, please click here.