Four Pillars Cases: Where We Are Litigating
Arizona Mail Ballot Deadline
Voto Latino v. Hobbs
Challenging Arizona over its mail ballot deadline law and practice that systematically disenfranchise voters in general and Hispanic and Latino voters in particular. Arizona requires ballots to be received by 7 p.m. on Election Day. If the ballot is received after 7 p.m. on Election Day, the ballot is discarded. Even if the ballot was postmarked well in advance of Election Day, including before or during the five to seven recommended days, but failed to arrive because of mail irregularities, the ballot is rejected. The Election Day Receipt Deadline has particularly profound implications for Arizona’s Hispanic and Latino voters. Statistically, they comprise a disproportionately significant portion of voters whose ballots are rejected under the Election Day Receipt Deadline. Indeed, in rural counties Hispanic and Latino voters are five to six times more likely to be disenfranchised than white voters. We claim that Arizona’s unjustified imposition of the Election Day Receipt Deadline violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
Florida COVID-19 Election Relief
Neilsen v. DeSantis
Ahead of Florida’s August primary, we sued the state and all its 67 County Supervisors of Elections over vote by mail restrictions that unfairly burden elderly, low-income, and student voters. On behalf of Priorities USA, the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans, Alianza for Progress, and individual voters, we challenged the State’s refusal to count ballots that are not received by 7:00 PM on Election Day, prohibition on paid organizers helping voters return their completed and sealed mail ballots, and lack of pre-paid postage for vote by mail ballots. All of these restrictions make it harder to vote by mail, and are exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.
Georgia COVID-19 Election Relief
New Georgia Project v. Raffensperger
We challenged Georgia’s failure to provide prepaid postage, Election Day Receipt Deadline, voter assistance ban, and lack of standards for notifying voters with incomplete absentee ballot applications. On behalf of the New Georgia Project and individual voters, we argue that these restrictions pose an undue burden on the right to vote generally and particularly in the upcoming election as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.
Maine COVID-19 Election Relief
Alliance for Retired Americans v. Dunlap
On behalf of the Alliance for Retired Americans, Vote.org, and individual voters, we sued Maine regarding six laws and practices that restrict voting by mail in the state. Filed ahead of Maine’s July primary and the general election in November, the lawsuit challenges the state’s failure to accept online voter registration applications, the requirement that first-time registrants for vote by mail submit a photocopy of an ID, failure to provide pre-paid postage, voter assistance ban, Election Day receipt deadline, and wholesale rejection of absentee ballots that have a signature mismatch without any opportunity to cure.
Michigan COVID-19 Election Relief
Michigan Alliance for Retired Americas v. Benson
On behalf of the Michigan Alliance for Retired Americans, the Detroit Chapter of the A. Philip Randolph Institute, and individual voters, we sued Michigan over its vote by mail restrictions. We ask the state to extend the deadline for when absentee ballots must be received, provide pre-paid postage for vote by mail, and permit third parties to assist voters in submitting their sealed ballots.
Michigan Criminal Voting Challenges
Priorities USA v. Nessel
Challenge to two Michigan voting restrictions. The first is Michigan’s restriction on the transportation of voters which makes it a misdemeanor to “hire a motor vehicle or other conveyance or cause the same to be done, for conveying voters, other than voters physically unable to walk, to an election.” By prohibiting the transportation of voters to polling locations, the statute inhibits protected political activities, including important GOTV efforts. The second law is Michigan’s restriction on absentee ballot applications which requires an individual that assists another voter with an absentee ballot application to affirm that she did not “solicit or request to return the application,” and prohibits an individual from assisting another voter in returning their application unless the individual is a registered voter in Michigan or a member of the voter’s immediate family or household.
Minnesota COVID-19 Election Relief
LaRose v. Simon
Sponsored by the National Redistricting Foundation, and on behalf of the Minnesota Alliance for Retired Americans Educational Fund and individual voters, we challenged two Minnesota laws that restrict voting by mail. The first is Minnesota’s requirement that each absentee ballot be witnessed by another registered voter or notary, which is almost impossible for those living alone and social distancing due to coronavirus to achieve. The second challenged law is Minnesota’s requirement that absentee ballots be received by 8:00 PM on Election Day.
Minnesota Voter Assistance/Ballot Collection
DSCC v. Simon
Challenging a Minnesota law that makes it a crime to help too many people vote. Regardless of the language barriers or disabilities faced by a voter being assisted, Minnesota limits the number of voters an individual may help (1) complete their in-person or absentee ballot and (2) submit their absentee ballots. Specifically, a person may help no more than three voters mark their ballots. Similarly, a person may help no more than three voters return their absentee ballots. These laws especially impact Minnesota’s sizable language minority communities, including Hmong and Somali Americans, as well as Minnesotans with disabilities. The penalty for helping too many Minnesotans vote is steep: anyone who helps a single additional person could face felony charges. By criminalizing efforts to assist voters in completing and submitting ballots, the Voter Assistance Bans inhibit constitutionally protected political activity and hinder the ability of Minnesotans to participate in the political process.
Montana Absentee Ballot Collection
Driscoll v. Stapleton
Challenge to two Montana voting restrictions. The first is Montana’s recently enacted restrictions on individuals and organizations that assist absentee voters by collecting and transporting sealed and signed absentee ballots to the county elections office. Montana’s absentee ballot assistance ban effectively prevents counties from providing secure, 24-hour drop boxes and other convenient, after-hours ballot return locations, forcing absentee voters seeking to vote during the last week of an election to drop off their ballots only during the business hours of a drop-off site staffed by county election officials. The second is Montana’s requirement that absentee ballots must be received by the county elections office by 8 PM on Election Day. Regardless of when the ballot is postmarked, and regardless of whether the voter is responsible for any delay the ballot encounters in the mail, if the ballot is not received by 8 p.m., the voter is entirely disenfranchised. The combined effect of the Absentee Ballot Assistance Ban and the Election Day Cutoff is to make it significantly more difficult for voters to exercise their right to vote, prevents civic organizations, friends, and neighbors from helping voters, and particularly burdens senior, disabled, Native American, and young voters.
Nevada COVID-19 Election Relief
Corona v. Cegavske
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, we sued on behalf of individual plaintiffs, the Nevada State Democratic Party, the DNC, the DCCC and Priorities USA ahead of the June 2020 Nevada Primary Election. The Nevada Secretary of State announced this primary would be all-mail, closing every polling location except for one in each county. This plan will leave too many Nevadans without a meaningful ability to vote, as it excludes qualified voters with “inactive” status and exacerbates existing problems with Nevada’s election laws such as a ballot collection ban and signature matching rules. We argue that while vote by mail is necessary during this time, it must be paired with meaningful opportunities to vote safely in person and include safeguards to prevent disenfranchisement of voters like what we saw in Wisconsin’s primary election in April.
North Carolina COVID-19 Election Relief
Stringer v. North Carolina
On behalf of individual voters, and sponsored by the National Redistricting Foundation and Right to Vote Foundation, we sued North Carolina over the State’s vote by mail restrictions. Even though North Carolina permits no-excuse vote by mail as an option, the remaining restrictions compounded with the public health crisis caused by COVID-19 disenfranchises voters. We challenged the lack of prepaid postage, the requirement that two witnesses have to sign the completed mail ballot, the requirement that absentee ballots be received by three days after Election Day, and the inconsistent signature matching process.
Absentee Ballot Collection Law
Advance North Carolina v. North Carolina
In 2019, North Carolina passed a voting law that, among other things, requires that absentee ballot request forms be completed and returned only by the voter, their near relative/guardian, or a member of a county-board authorized multi-partisan team. These provisions not only deny voters valuable assistance in obtaining absentee ballots to facilitate their political participation, but also infringe on the core political speech and associational activities of organizations and citizens working to increase voter turnout.
Oklahoma COVID-19 Election Relief*
DCCC v. Ziriax
On behalf of the DCCC and the Oklahoma Democratic Party, we challenged Oklahoma’s vote by mail restrictions ahead of their June 30, 2020 primary. The restrictions at issue were Oklahoma’s notary and witness requirements, rule that county election boards notify “proper authorities” if there is a large number of absentee ballot requests, refusal to prepay postage for absentee ballots, rejection of absentee ballots delivered after 7:00pm on Election Day, and ban on organizations from collecting ballots.
Pennsylvania COVID-19 Election Relief
Crossey v. Boockvar
We sued Pennsylvania on behalf of individual voters and the Pennsylvania Alliance for Retired Americans to ensure free and fair elections during the unprecedented public health crisis caused by COVID-19. While Pennsylvania recently allowed no-excuse absentee voting, voters will still encounter numerous obstacles when requesting a mail ballot. We challenged Pennsylvania on all four of our vote by mail pillars: prepaid postage, postmark date, community ballot collection, and signature matching training and voter notification.
South Carolina COVID-19 Election Relief (Federal)
Middleton v. Andino
On behalf of individual voters, the South Carolina Democratic Party, the DNC and the DCCC, we challenged South Carolina’s vote by mail restrictions. The state requires a witness signature on absentee ballots, does not provide pre-paid postage, and has an Election Day cut-off of not counting ballots received after 7:00 PM on Election Day. South Carolina also makes it a felony for a candidate or paid campaign staff to assist voters with returning their voted absentee ballots to elections officials. These voting hurdles, especially during the unprecedented public health crisis caused by COVID-19, disenfranchises voters in South Carolina and particularly burdens African American voters.
South Carolina COVID-19 Election Relief (State)
Bailey v. Andino
Due to the unprecedented public health crisis posed by COVID-19, we sued South Carolina asking the court to allow those who are practicing social distancing to qualify for absentee voting in the June primary election. Currently, South Carolina election law requires the overwhelming majority of voters in the state to vote in person on election day. This will put millions of voters and poll workers at risk in the primary election and other elections in 2020 during the ongoing crisis. We filed the lawsuit on behalf of individual voters, the South Carolina Democratic Party and the DCCC.
Texas COVID-19 Election Relief
Lewis v. Hughs
We sued to protect Texans who will seek to vote by mail in November’s general election. On behalf of Voto Latino, the Texas State Conference of the NAACP, the Texas Alliance for Retired Americans and individual voters, we challenged all Four Pillars in Texas that, in light of the coronavirus pandemic, will severely burden Texans’ right to vote. Our lawsuit asks Texas to provide prepaid postage for absentee ballots, accept all ballots postmarked on or before Election Day, prohibit enforcement of signature matching, allow voters the opportunity to correct a signature mismatch, and allow voters to designate any third party to collect their voted and sealed absentee ballot.
Wisconsin COVID-19 Election Relief
DNC v. Bostelmann
Plaintiffs first brought suit and sought emergency relief for the upcoming April 7, 2020 primary, challenging several Wisconsin statutes restricting the ability to register by mail and online and to vote absentee by mail. The district court granted injunctive relief in several orders in late March and early April extending the deadline for registering online; extending the election-day deadline for receipt of completed absentee ballots by an extra six days, to April 13; and relaxing the witness certification requirement for absentee ballots. The Seventh Circuit stayed the relaxation of the witness certification requirement but otherwise declined to stay the injunctive relief. On the afternoon before the April 7 primary, the U.S. Supreme Court by a vote of 5-4 modified the extension of the election-day receipt deadline by requiring that ballots must be postmarked by April 7 in order to be counted even though they need not be received by election officials until the following Monday, April 13. The district court’s extension of the ballot-receipt deadline is estimated to have enabled an additional 142,000 Wisconsin voters to cast absentee ballots and have those ballots counted. The W.D. Wis. extension of the registration-by-email deadline enabled tens of thousands of additional voters to register without having to show up in person on election day. The Second Amended Complaint seeks expanded injunctive relief for Wisconsin’s upcoming elections.