Hand v. Scott: Florida Former Felon Voting Rights Restoration (2017)
In March, 2017, Fair Elections Legal Network and Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC filed a class action lawsuit that seeks to automatically restore former felons’ voting rights and eliminate Florida’s arbitrary process for re-enfranchisement. The plaintiffs include nine former felons who have applied for restoration of voting rights and have been denied for minor infractions, like traffic violations, or for no provided reason at all.
Florida is one of four states that denies the right to vote to all former felons until they petition for rights restoration, and this process is the target of the lawsuit. 1.68 million Floridians are currently disenfranchised—the highest state total in the nation—and over 10,000 are waiting for a hearing on their restoration applications. About 1.6 million Floridians are disenfranchised because they were convicted of a felony and have not had their voting rights restored. This includes men and women of all different political parties, races, ethnicities, ages, from cities and rural areas, as well as veterans, small business owners and others.
Kansas, Georgia & Alabama: Proof of Citizenship for Voter Registration (2016)
In late July 2016, FELN filed an amicus brief as part of a suit over changes to registration forms. The suit, League of Women Voters vs. Newby, is a challenge to the inclusion of three states’ proof of citizenship requirements for voter registration using the National Mail Voter Registration Form. FELN wrote in support of Appellants — a group of voters and voter registration groups — who have opposed the Election Assistance Commission’s Executive Director’s unlawful changes to the federal registration form. FELN argued that the D.C. Circuit panel should order the immediate removal of the documentary proof of citizenship requirements from the federal form’s instructions for Kansas, Alabama and Georgia, and order that all those who were unlawfully rejected since February be added to the voter rolls. The amicus brief further argues that Supreme Court precedent on the timing of remedies in voting rights cases like this is no barrier to ordering an immediate return to the status quo that held for over two decades — no requirement on the Federal Form to provide documentary proof of citizenship.
On September 9, 2016, the D.C. Circuit panel — by a vote of 2 to 1 — ordered the immediate removal of the proof of citizenship requirements from the Federal Form and ordered Kansas, Georgia and Alabama to register any applicants who submitted the Federal Form without proof of citizenship.
Virginia: Restoration of Ex-Felons’ Voting Rights (2016)
In June 2016, the Fair Elections Legal Network and Jenner & Block filed an amicus brief in the challenge to the Virginia ex-felon restoration order, Howell v. McAuliffe, which is filed in the Supreme Court of Virginia. We argue that the voters and individual legislators who brought the petition for writs of mandamus and prohibition do not have standing and the case should be dismissed.
Louisiana: Discriminatory Registration Requirement (2016)
In the Spring of 2016, FELN and the Southern Poverty Law Center filed suit claiming that Louisiana was discriminating against naturalized citizens by requiring them to provide citizenship documents when registering to vote – a requirement that was not asked of other potential voters who must simply swear they are U.S. citizens. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of three naturalized citizens who must meet the requirement, which dates back to 1874. VAYLA New Orleans, a nonprofit organization that has attempted to register voters, is also a plaintiff.
Less than a month after the filing, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards signed legislation repealing the law – effectively resolving the lawsuit. For more information see our press releases announcing the lawsuit and the resulting repeal.
Ohio: Young Voters in the Presidential Primary (2016)
As the 2016 primary season heated up, young voters in Ohio were dealt a surprise when the Secretary of State ordered that 17-year-olds who would be 18 by the time of the general election were not eligible to cast a vote in the presidential primaries. Along with Columbus attorney Rachel Bloomekatz, who is now with the firm Gupta Wessler PLLC, FELN filed suit against this directive and just days before election, the court ruled in our favor granting voting rights to all eligible young voters.
For more information on the case, see our press release announcing the decision.
In 2015, Fair Elections Legal Network and Nashville law firm, Barrett Johnston Martin & Garrison, LLC filed a federal lawsuit challenging Tennessee’s voter ID law as violating the voting rights of Tennessee students. The state’s voter ID law allows voters to use public college and university faculty and employee ID cards but not student ID cards issued by the same institutions. Unfortunately, the case was ultimately dismissed, but brought attention to the nationwide issue of student ID as voter ID.
For more information on that case, see our media kit.
Florida: Illegal Purge of Voter Rolls (2014)
When Florida started removing voters from its rolls just 90 days before a federal election, FELN and other national partners stepped in to defend those voters rights. Along with Project Vote, LatinoJustice PRLDEF and Advancement Project, FELN asserted that removing voters that close to an election did not give citizens enough time to correct any state errors before trying to vote. In the end, a judge agreed and ruled that the purge violated the NVRA. For more information, see our press release on the decision.