Judge Rejects Sanders Supporters’ Voting Suit

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — With just six days before the California primary, a federal judge refused to grant injunctive relief to Bernie Sanders supporters and others seeking an extension of the voter registration deadline.
     “Normally I’d take this under submission, but I don’t have that luxury,” U.S. District Judge William Alsup said at an emergency hearing Wednesday. “All relief is denied on the preliminary injunction.”
     The lawsuit was brought less than two weeks ago by a group of Bernie Sanders supporters called the Voting Rights Defense Project, alongside the American Independence Party and two Bay Area voters.
     In their complaint against Secretary of State Alex Padilla and Alameda and San Francisco county voter registrars Tom Depuis and John Arntz, they claimed voters who registered without declaring a party preference were not being adequately educated on their right to request a crossover ballot that would allow them to vote in the Democratic, American Independent and Libertarian primaries.
     The Republican Party does not allow unaffiliated voters to participate in its primary.
     The groups said that failure to inform voters of their rights violated both the Equal Protection clause of the U.S. Constitution and the federal Voting Rights Act.
     On Wednesday, the plaintiffs’ lawyer William Simpich argued that counties are inconsistently training poll workers, and many voters either don’t know or are too intimidated to ask for a crossover ballot. Many are also registered to vote-by-mail and do not automatically receive a crossover ballot in their election packets, he said.
     “This is a case of mass confusion,” Simpich told Alsup.
     Alsup asked Simpich what possible relief would make sense to grant “that could possibly get done,” given that the primary election is June 7.
     Simpich asked for an online dissemination of a list of voters’ rights, emphasizing that non-partisan voters who want to vote for Bernie Sanders can request a new ballot from a poll worker.
     Voters who are registered to vote by mail should also be informed that they need to surrender their ballot with the envelope at the polls to obtain a crossover ballot, Simpich said.
     In denying all relief, Alsup chided the plaintiffs for waiting until May 20 to file their lawsuit, and May 27 to file their motion for an injunction asking, among other things, to extend California’s voter registration deadline until election day itself and allow unaffiliated voters to recast their votes.
     “That alone is a showstopper,” the judge said of the late filings, adding that their claims are state-law claims and “this is a federal court.”
     Alsup also said there is no reason to flood voters with a deluge of already-available information.
     “There is absolutely no showing of a federal violation. That more information might be available in one county over another does not rise to the level of equal protection,” Alsup said. “Citizens of California are smart enough to know what their rights are. I’m giving my order now so you can get your writ to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and then the United States Supreme Court, then the International Court of the Hague. But you’re done in federal court.”
     Speaking to reporters outside the courtroom, Simpich said he didn’t know what course he’d pursue next.
     “This isn’t the end,” he said. “I’m sorry it didn’t go our way. I regret the fact that [Alsup] didn’t think he had jurisdiction. I disagree with him. The question is what is the smart thing to do next? It keeps coming back to the issue of voter education. Can litigation move that forward? I think it can.”
     He added that the case was filed so close to the election because he’d only been made aware of the issues three weeks ago.
     Simpich speculated that a new filing in state court may be the way to go.
     His co-counsel Stephen Jaffe said, “It’s not going to give us any level of solace if on June 8, following a mess on June 7, we stand here and say we told you so.”
     Simpich said the case is not about partisan politics, and that he isn’t affiliated with the Sanders campaign.
     “I threw a party for him last year, but that’s it,” he said.”This is an entirely independent lawsuit,” Jaffe said. “We deliberately sought to balance this lawsuit to make it non-partisan.”

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