Judge Upholds Disputed Voter-Registration Forms

     (CN) — A federal judge rejected arguments that recent changes to the National Mail Voter Registration Form instructing residents of three different states to provide proof of citizenship should be reversed.
     U.S. District Judge Richard Leon denied a motion for preliminary injunction filed by the League of Women Voters of the United States and other organizations challenging the modifications to the form.
     According to Leon’s June 29 memorandum opinion, the changes to the instructions were made by U.S. Election Assistance Commission Executive Director Brian Newby after three different states — Kansas, Georgia and Alabama — had requested the modifications to reflect their respective state laws.
     The voter-registration form, which is used to register voters for federal elections by mail, lists U.S. citizenship as a “universal eligibility requirement” and also requires registrants to sign the form “under penalty of perjury.”
     Additionally, the form includes state-specific instructions, which are where the disputed changes were made.
     The three states in question each require some form of proof-of-citizenship from prospective voters. In the case of Kansas, voter applicants can use “one of thirteen types of documentary evidence” to prove their citizenship or use a second, alternative process involving “the use of witnesses.”
     According to the opinion, Newby notified the states in January via letter that their modification requests had been approved.
     Other plaintiffs involved in the case include Project Vote, the NAACP of Georgia and two Kansas residents who attempted to use the federal form to register to vote.
     According to Leon, the organizational plaintiffs in the case argued that the additional instructions would hinder their ability to conduct voter registration drives.
     The League of Women Voters of Kansas, for example, argued that “some people do not carry proof of citizenship around with them, others do not possess documentation of citizenship at all and are unable to afford it, and some individuals that do have documentation of citizenship on their person would not feel comfortable allowing voter registration volunteers to handle it.”
     Leon pointed out, however, that the proof-of-citizenship requirement was already being enforced for state elections in Kansas.
     Plaintiffs filed suit in February arguing that Newby’s actions were illegal as they were done “without the approval of three commissioners” and in violation of EAC policy which reserves policymaking for the commissioners.
     Judge Leon previously denied plaintiffs’ motion for a temporary restraining order in the matter.
     In deciding to deny plaintiffs’ motion for injunctive relief, Leon weighed heavily the principle of irreparable harm, calling it the “cornerstone of injunctive relief.” And in the current case, he found that the plaintiffs were unable to demonstrate such an injury.
     From the opinion: “The modifications of the Federal Form to include the state-specific documentation of citizenship requirements, although an inconvenience, in no way precludes the organizational plaintiffs and their members from conducting their core activities of encouraging civic participation in both state and federal elections and educating the public about the requirements for registering to vote in each.”
     In response to the decision, League of Women Voters of the United States President Chris Carson stated, “While we are disappointed in today’s decision, we will appeal to protect the critical rights of voters in these three states, especially during this election year.”

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