Litigation Look Ahead: January
Happy 2023! As we ring in the new year, courtrooms are fairly quiet when it comes to voting rights. Now that we’re out of the rapid-fire pace of election-related litigation, lawsuits will progress on a slower basis. Ongoing legal challenges to GOP-sponsored voter suppression laws and practices — both new and old — and maps will carry into another year. And, with states slated to begin legislative sessions in the new year, we can expect a round of litigation over any voter suppression laws that are passed.
Below we outline cases with courtroom activities or filings to look out for this month. This is not an exhaustive list — new lawsuits will be filed and pending cases are subject to scheduling conflicts, delays or developments that change the course of litigation. Keep an eye on our Cases and News Alerts pages for any developments in these lawsuits and others.
Voting rights litigation: what to expect.
Along with the updates below, there is a long list of court rulings that could come down at any point. In particular, we’re watching to see if the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals determines if a district court correctly struck down provisions of Florida’s omnibus voter suppression law, Senate Bill 90; if a Pennsylvania court upholds a Republican-backed law expanding mail-in voting after a Republican lawsuit challenged it and if the U.S. Supreme Court decides to hear any new lawsuits that touch on voting rights.
Key dates: Oral argument tentatively on Jan. 24, 2023
Katie Hobbs (D) was sworn in as Arizona’s new governor on Jan. 2, 2023, but her Republican gubernatorial opponent Kari Lake hasn’t given up her fight yet. On Dec. 24, 2022, an Arizona judge rejected two election contest claims brought by Lake after the other eight were previously dismissed. Despite this ruling that put an end to Lake’s quest to overturn valid election results, litigation continues. On Dec. 27, Kari Lake appealed the lower court’s decision denying her requested relief. On Dec. 31, Lake filed a petition to transfer her case to the Arizona Supreme Court; the court has not yet ruled on this request. Meanwhile, oral argument before the Arizona Court of Appeals is tentatively scheduled for Jan. 24, 2023 where Lake will argue that her election contest was improperly dismissed.
Key dates: Briefing due Jan. 17, 2023
A multi-year long lawsuit alleging that an organization intimidated Georgia voters just got a bit more interesting: The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) accepted a federal court’s request to join proceedings in Fair Fight v. True the Vote. The lawsuit, filed in December 2020 by Fair Fight, alleges that the right-wing group True the Vote violated Section 11(b) of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) by illegally intimidating voters in Georgia. Among other actions, the lawsuit focuses on True the Vote’s attempt to challenge the eligibility of over 350,000 Georgia voters ahead of the Senate runoff election in January 2021. In October 2022, the judge presiding over this case asked the DOJ about its “position as to intervention” in this lawsuit after the defendants questioned the constitutionality of Section 11(b). In response, the DOJ intervened and will join the other parties in filing briefs on Jan. 17 ahead of a February hearing.
Redistricting litigation: what to expect.
Redistricting litigation may have taken a back seat in the second half of 2022 as districts were finalized for the midterms, but multiple lawsuits challenging legislative and congressional maps remain active and will continue into 2023 and beyond. While we wait for the U.S. Supreme Court to issue rulings in two landmark voting rights lawsuits, Merrill v. Milligan and Moore v. Harper, (which likely won’t be for a few more months), we’re watching the following states to see if districts are upheld in court.
- Ongoing litigation against congressional maps drawn with 2020 census data in: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas and Utah.
- Ongoing litigation against legislative maps drawn with 2020 census data in: Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas and Washington.
Key dates: Oral argument on Jan. 11, 2023
The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hold oral argument on Jan. 11 in a lawsuit alleging that Arkansas’ state House map dilutes the voting strength of Black Arkansans in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). (You may remember that this oral argument was originally scheduled for Dec. 14, but it was then postponed to the new year.) Notably, a federal judge in a lower court ruled earlier this year that there is no private right of action under Section 2 of the VRA, meaning only the U.S. attorney general — and not individuals and organizations — can bring Section 2 lawsuits. This lower court’s ruling, which rejected decades of case precedent, was immediately appealed and will be the focus of oral argument on Jan. 11.
Key dates: Hearing on Jan. 9, 2023
On Jan. 21, 2022, the Republican Party of New Mexico, state Sen. David Gallegos (R), former state Sen. Timothy Jennings (D) and a group of Republican voters filed a lawsuit challenging New Mexico’s congressional map drawn with 2020 census data. The plaintiffs argue that the new map is a partisan gerrymander that favors Democrats in violation of the New Mexico Constitution. A trial court denied the plaintiffs’ request to block the map for the 2022 election cycle and also rejected the defendants’ motion to dismiss the lawsuit. The defendants appealed the latter part of the trial court’s decision to the New Mexico Supreme Court, arguing that the lower court left open the question of whether the state constitution bans partisan gerrymandering and, if so, if New Mexico courts have a role in adjudicating such claims. The state’s highest court will hold oral argument on this issue on Jan. 9; the hearing can be viewed here under Grisham v. Van Soelen.
Stay up to date on important cases and court decisions in January on our Cases and News Alerts pages.