Lawsuit filed on behalf of Voice of the Experienced (VOTE), Power Coalition for Equity and Justice and the League of Women Voters of Louisiana against Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin (R) challenging the state’s policy regarding re-enfranchisement for “suspended” voters: citizens who were previously registered to vote and whose registration was suspended due to a felony conviction. In Louisiana, the right to vote is restored to someone who was incarcerated for a felony conviction after the discharge of the sentence or once five years have passed since incarceration. If the voter was not previously registered, the person can register to vote like any other voter by registering online, in-person or by mail. However, if the person was registered to vote prior to the conviction, that person must present extra documentary proof of eligibility when registering to vote. Thus, the complaint explains, “Louisiana has attempted to create a bifurcated process for accepting voter registration forms for people with convictions.” The complaint alleges that this practice violates the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) because the documentary proof of eligibility requirement for previously registered voters “exceeds the information necessary for election officials to assess an applicant’s eligibility, particularly given the guaranteed statutory access election officials have to the requisite information.” Additionally, the plaintiffs claim that this practice violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment because “suspended” voters with prior convictions attempting to register to vote are treated differently than new registrants with past convictions.
The complaint argues that this scheme places an unnecessary burden on the right to vote for those whose eligibility was suspended “despite the fact that elections officials already have in their possession sufficient information to verify restoration of voting rights for registrants with past felony convictions.“ The complaint argues that “[t]he paperwork requirement for suspended voters is a part of a long history of erecting additional barriers for individuals with felony convictions to gain access to the franchise in Louisiana, a practice with Jim Crow-era origins.” The plaintiffs ask the court to declare this practice in violation of the NVRA and Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment and ask the court to prevent the enforcement of this policy.