As we previewed at the start of the year, voting rights and redistricting litigation is expected to take center stage in courtrooms in 2022. In the first two months of the year, a multi-week trial was held on the legality of Florida’s new voter suppression law; maps were struck down in Alaska, North Carolina and Ohio; and new litigation was filed to protect the right to vote.
As we head into March, we wanted to highlight cases to keep an eye on 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.
While a lot of litigation is focused on redistricting right now, cases protecting voting rights are also ongoing across the country. Three omnibus voter suppression laws will go before three state courts, while Republicans attempt to restrict voting access in two other states.
– House Bill 176 ends Election Day registration, an option that had been in place in Montana for 15 years.
– Senate Bill 169 narrows the list of eligible voter IDs. For example, while concealed carry permits count as an acceptable ID, student IDs must now be accompanied with another form of ID.
– House Bill 530 prohibits ballot collection efforts completed in exchange for a “pecuniary benefit,” which generally means money. While paid elections officials are exempt from this law, it is otherwise vague as to whether paid employees of voter assistance organizations would violate this law if they assist with ballot collection.
– House Bill 506 prohibits the mailing of ballots to new voters who will be eligible to vote on Election Day but are not yet 18.
A preliminary injunction hearing is currently scheduled for March 10, after which the judge will determine if the challenged laws should be blocked until a final ruling is made.
In Longoria v. Paxton, Texas state officials are challenging a preliminary injunction granted by a district court judge. On Feb. 14, an order was issued that temporarily blocked a provision of S.B. 1 that makes it a crime for election officials to encourage eligible individuals to request a mail-in ballot application. Republican officials in the case immediately appealed this decision to the 5th Circuit, which stayed (meaning paused) the preliminary injunction and ordered the appeal to be heard on an expedited basis. Oral argument is currently scheduled for March 8, during which the Republicans will argue that the district court incorrectly granted injunctive relief. The period to request a mail-in ballot has already closed for the state’s March primary, but this ruling could affect the ability of elections officials to encourage mail-in voting in future elections.
Redistricting litigation: what to expect.
Below we outline cases that are likely to have significant movement in March — for example, if there is a hearing scheduled or if we are expecting a decision. We’re also closely watching litigation in:
- Kansas, where multiple state court challenges to adopted maps — and a lawsuit about the state court system’s ability to hear those challenges — are ongoing;
- Kentucky, where a lawsuit challenging the state’s new congressional and state House maps is proceeding;
- South Carolina, where parties in a lawsuit challenging the new state House map are attempting to reach a solution; and
- Wisconsin, where the Wisconsin Supreme Court has yet to adopt new maps after taking control of the redistricting process. With candidate filing opening April 15, we can expect a decision soon.
After the state Supreme Court struck down Ohio’s enacted congressional map, the Ohio Legislature was tasked with redrawing the map. They failed to reach an agreement by the court-ordered deadline of Feb. 13, which means that map drawing falls to the Ohio Redistricting Commission. The commission has until March 15 to adopt a new map.
As always, democracy remains on the docket. That’s why we’ll be providing monthly litigation look aheads, like this one, at the start of each month to ensure you know what to look out for in the courts. In the meantime, be sure to stay up to date on important cases and court decisions on our Cases and Alerts pages.