Yesterday, June 30, the U.S. Supreme Court wrapped up its term — delivering the final blow in a devastating series of decisions attacking abortion rights, environmental regulations, gun control laws, tribal sovereignty and so much more. While the high court is done (for now) rolling back our fundamental rights, activity in other courts is certain to increase with the temperatures this July. Georgia faces multiple challenges against its voter suppression law and (likely discriminatory) maps, while litigation on district lines for 2024 and beyond moves forward.
Below we highlight cases with likely court action over the next month. This is not an exhaustive list — new lawsuits will be filed, and pending cases are subject to scheduling conflicts, delays or case developments that change the course of litigation. Keep an eye on our Cases page for any developments in these cases and others.
Voting rights litigation: what to expect.
Another month has passed and we’re still waiting for decisions out of Pennsylvania and Wisconsin that could affect mail-in voting in the swing states for future elections. In other mail-in voting news, New York’s ballot rejection practices could be halted by a federal judge after a hearing was held last month. And, we want to draw your attention to an important case in Mississippi challenging the state’s felony disenfranchisement law. The 5th U.S. Circuit of Appeals held an oral argument in the case back in September and could release its decision at any moment. Here’s what else we’re monitoring in July.
Key dates: Hearing scheduled for July 18, 2022
Soon after Senate Bill 202, Georgia’s Republican-backed voter suppression bill, was enacted in March 2021, a landslide of lawsuits was filed challenging the law’s most harmful provisions. Six cases raising similar claims were consolidated in In re: Georgia Senate Bill 202 and two other cases raising distinct claims, Coalition for Good Governance v. Raffensperger and VoteAmerica v. Raffensperger, remain on their own.
Three sets of plaintiffs in the consolidated case have asked a federal district court to block S.B. 202’s line-warming ban for elections this fall, arguing that it violates the First Amendment by targeting political expression. The plaintiffs point out that this restriction will largely impact minority voters considering that “Georgia voters of color are six times more likely than white voters to wait longer than one hour to vote.” Especially given that the state has offered no evidence showing the need for a line-warming ban, the plaintiffs argue that the provision creates “a wholly unjustified and unjustifiable bar on expressing messages of concrete support and encouragement to voters waiting in line to cast a ballot” in violation of the U.S. Constitution. In other S.B. 202 news, on June 30, a federal judge denied a request from the VoteAmerica plaintiffs asking to block the law’s absentee ballot restrictions for the 2022 general election, leaving these provisions in place for now.
Key dates: Trial starting on July 12, 2022
A lawsuit filed in September 2020 over South Dakota’s compliance with federal registration laws finally heads to trial this month. Two Native American tribes, a voting rights organization and individual Native American voters sued the state and its election officials alleging that South Dakota has been violating the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) by failing to provide voter registration opportunities at motor vehicle agencies and state-run public assistance offices. The plaintiffs argue that the lack of adequate voter registration options has resulted in a significant decline in registration rates in recent years, causing particular harm to Native American communities. In late May, a federal district court judge agreed with the plaintiffs that South Dakota hadn’t been complying with the NVRA in numerous ways, including that election officials didn’t offer voter registration options at certain mandated locations or during covered transactions and that these officials failed to adequately train employees on registration requirements. A few claims remain, however, that will go to trial on July 12 unless the parties reach a settlement before then (we’ll know by July 5 if they reach an agreement and if a trial is necessary). The outstanding issues to be addressed include:
- Whether employees at the South Dakota Department of Social Services provide adequate and thorough assistance to prospective voters who are filling out registration forms;
- Whether the South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation is required to provide voter registration opportunities when administering certain benefits programs, such as the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program;
- Whether the South Dakota Department of Health is in compliance with the NVRA
- And whether state employees are properly trained to help register individuals with prior convictions who have completed their sentences and are eligible to vote.
Redistricting litigation: what to expect.
After the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated Louisiana’s previously blocked congressional map, all 50 states have congressional and legislative maps set for the 2022 election cycle. While this year’s elections will take place under these lines, districts in multiple states could change by 2024. Below are a few states to keep in mind as we move towards post-2022 redistricting litigation.
Key dates: Brief due on July 11, 2022
Briefing on the legality of Alabama’s congressional map is moving along in the U.S. Supreme Court. A lower court found that the map likely violates the Voting Rights Act (VRA) and blocked it for the 2022 election cycle, but then the nation’s highest court reinstated it for the 2022 elections. The Supreme Court is now reviewing the merits of the case to decide whether or not Alabama’s congressional map violates the VRA by only having one majority-Black district out of seven total districts; the lower court had ruled that a second majority-Black district should also be drawn to adequately represent the state’s Black residents, who make up over 27% of Alabama’s population. The state of Alabama, along with claiming its map doesn’t violate Section 2, argues that the provision itself should be examined for potentially conflicting with the U.S. Constitution by focusing on race. The parties opposing Alabama will file their response briefs on July 11 and oral arguments are scheduled for Oct. 4.
Key dates: Hearing scheduled for July 22, 2022
Litigation in Georgia extends beyond S.B. 202. There are also five lawsuits challenging the state’s new congressional and legislative maps drawn with 2020 census data. The state is hoping to toss out one of these cases, Georgia State Conference of the NAACP v. Georgia, which is trying to block the maps before the 2024 elections by arguing that the state’s new legislative and congressional maps are racial gerrymanders that violate the 14th Amendment and racially diluted maps that violate Section 2 of the VRA. The defendants argue that the VRA claims must be dismissed because Section 2 does not create a private right of action, which means that only the U.S. attorney general — not individuals and organizations — can sue under it. This argument has been largely ignored in courts (with the exception of one Trump-appointed judge in Arkansas), but we’ll see what happens during a hearing on the motion to dismiss on July 22, 2022.
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