Election Justice USA Files Emergency Lawsuit in NY
NEW YORK - Election Justice USA, a national voting rights organization, is filing an emergency lawsuit in New York Federal District Court today, a day before the New York Primary.
Reports of thousands of NY voters being erroneously purged from the rolls was the cause for this emergency action on the part of the newly-formed national group. The lawsuit calls for the immediate restoration of voting rights for the thousands of eligible New Yorkers who, upon verifying their voter registration status recently, discovered their status was listed as “not registered” or, having registered and previously voted as Democrats, are now listed as “unaffiliated with any party (independent)” or “Republican,” thereby disqualifying them from voting in the state’s closed Presidential Primary on Tuesday.
“Voters are frustrated, angry, and feel helpless,” EJUSA spokeswoman Shyla Nelson said. “We have heard hundreds of stories, with desperate pleas for help. This election season has excited and galvanized the voting public in unprecedented numbers. For these voters to be systematically and erroneously removed from the rolls or prevented from voting in their party of choice is devastating to them personally and has sent a wave of doubt and worry through the voting public.”
Citing statutes from both the National Voting Rights Act (NVRA) and New York Election law, the suit also seeks to shift the burden of proof of eligibility from the voters to the Board of Elections, the named defendant in the case. “The Board of Elections, not voters, holds the voting records and should be responsible to prove a voter’s ineligibility, rather than putting this burden on the voter,” says Blaire Fellows, one of the lead attorneys filing the suit. “As it is currently structured, the statute places an onerous and excessive burden on the voter to prove their eligibility. It requires securing a court order, which takes time that many New Yorkers simply don’t have, as it means loss of income over and above what they lose by simply taking time off to vote.”
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New York is one of a growing number of states across the nation who are facing these issues amidst increasing public pressure to make the election process more transparent to the public, as well as to make state primaries open to all voters, regardless of party affiliation - another request outlined in the lawsuit. “The integrity of the election process is vital to democracy,” says Ohio attorney Cliff Arnebeck, one of Election Justice USA’s legal advisors. Arnebeck, who has litigated against election fraud since 2000, says he believes the New York lawsuit “ensures that eligible voters are able to vote in the New York Primary and raises the right questions of responsibility and accountability in how elections are conducted.”
Presidential candidates have weighed in on the issue of voter suppression during the 2016 primary season, and their positions reflect fundamental differences between the two parties. Texas Republican Ted Cruz called for the repeal of the Voting Rights Act pre-clearance provision in 2012, while John Kasich, as Governor of Ohio, passed legislation that made voter purges easier, provisional ballots less likely to be counted, and absentee ballots harder to attain.
In stark contrast to his Republican opponents, Democratic Presidential candidate Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is one of 41 co-sponsors of the Voting Rights Advancement Act which would restore provisions of the Voting Rights Act that were invalidated by the Supreme Court. Sanders also addresses the racial justice implications of voter suppression and disenfranchisement in his support for measures to expand voting access, including automatic voter registration, increased early voting hours, and making Election Day a federal holiday. He advocates open primaries, citing the millions of independent and first-time voters who are prevented from voting under a closed primary. “We have a system here in New York where independents can’t get involved in the Democratic primary, where young people who have not previously registered and want to register today can’t do it,” Sanders said at a rally in Washington Square Park in Manhattan last Wednesday.
Democratic candidate, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has urged Congress to pass the Voting Rights Advancement Act and supports automatic voter registration for citizens when they turn 18, and at least 20 days of early voting in each state.
Election Justice USA’s lawsuit will be filed at the Eastern District of New York Federal District Court in Central Islip this afternoon.
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Election Justice USA is a national organization advancing election integrity, transparency, and the protection of voting rights for all Americans.