On October 6, 2008, a coalition of voting rights organizations including the Lawyers’ Committee submitted a “friend of the court” brief in a lawsuit Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen filed against the State Government Accountability Board regarding the state’s compliance with the 2002 Help America Vote Act (HAVA). The brief lays out a legal argument as to why Van Hollen’s attempts to purge voter rolls and cross check voter identification with existing state databases go beyond the intended scope of HAVA.
The intent of HAVA, when signed into law in 2002, was to ensure that state agencies were communicating with one another regarding the identification information of eligible voters – not, as the attorney general contends, a voter’s eligibility itself.
The Lawyers’ Committee’s Jon Greenbaum, Director of the Voting Rights Project, said, “The Help America Vote Act is intended to do just that – help the average person cast a ballot, not take away his or her right to vote. The attorney general’s misguided interpretation of this law will doubtlessly imperil the ability of thousands of Wisconsin citizens to do their civic duty on Election Day. That’s why his lawsuit should be thrown out of court, and the nonpartisan Government Accountability Board should continue its charge of ensuring a fair election, rather than be distracted by a frivolous lawsuit.”
The Circuit Court found against Wisconsin’s Attorney General and dismissed the case on October 23, 2008, and based their decision in part on arguments made in the brief we submitted.