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Let People Vote: Our Fight for Your Right to Vote in This Election

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Ballot box
Dale Ho,
Former Director,
Voting Rights Project, ACLU
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November 3, 2016

It’s been a long road from 2012 to 2016.

Since the last presidential election, states around the country have been trying to suppress voting. But the ACLU, along with our affiliates and partners across the country, have been hard at work defending your right to vote. Over the last four years, we have won 15 victories in 12 states that will safeguard the voting rights of millions of Americans this November.

Those wins include:

  • Arizona. In June 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that Arizona may not require voters who use a federal voter registration form to provide citizenship documents but rather must register such voters so long as they swear under oath that they are U.S. citizens. The ACLU, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, MALDEF, and other organizations brought the case on behalf of the Inter-Tribal Council of Arizona, the League of Women Voters, and other groups.

  • Pennsylvania. In January 2014, a state court struck down Pennsylvania’s voter ID law, finding that more than 400,000 registered voters in Pennsylvania lack a photo ID. The state chose not to appeal. The ACLU of Pennsylvania brought the case with co-counsel, including the Advancement Project and the Public Interest Law Center.

  • Iowa. In March 2014, the ACLU of Iowa and the ACLU won a case challenging an illegal voter purge. The state had engaged in a flawed voter purge program that mistakenly identified U.S. citizens as noncitizens and removed thousands of legitimate voters from the rolls. A year later, the state dropped its appeal.

  • California. In March 2014, representing the League of Women Voters, the ACLU of California, the ACLU, Demos, and Project Vote reached a settlement agreement with the state to ensure that California provide voter registration services to participants in its Affordable Care Act health insurance exchange. As part of the settlement, California mailed voter registration cards to more than 3.8 million people who had already sought health insurance through the exchange.

  • Arkansas. In October 2014, in a case brought by the ACLU of Arkansas, the Arkansas Supreme Court issued a unanimous ruling striking down Arkansas’s voter ID law.

  • Ohio. In April 2015, the ACLU and the ACLU of Ohio— representing groups including the Ohio NAACP and the A. Philip Randolph Institute — reached a settlement to restore evening and weekend early voting opportunities in Ohio. During the case, we presented evidence that, in 2012, more than 70,000 people voted early on evenings and weekends that the state sought to eliminate from before the 2014 election. The settlement restored those evenings and weekends to Ohio’s early voting period going forward.

  • New Hampshire. In May 2015, the New Hampshire ACLU won a case in the New Hampshire Supreme Court challenging a voter registration law targeting students. The law misleadingly and inaccurately suggested that people could not register to vote in New Hampshire unless they planned on remaining in the state for the “indefinite future.” New Hampshire law simply requires that voters — including students — be “domiciled” in the state.

  • Kansas. In a series of rulings, the ACLU and the ACLU of Kansas chipped away at a Kansas law requiring people registering to vote to submit citizenship documents, instead of simply swearing under oath that they are U.S. citizens —the standard practice in 48 states.

    • First, in May 2016, a district court ruled that Kansas may not require people who register to vote at DMVs to provide citizenship documents and ordered that 18,000 motor-voter applicants (whose registrations had been blocked by the law) be restored to the rolls. That decision was later upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.
    • Second, when Kansas tried to divide its voter registration system so that these motor-voter applicants would only be permitted to vote for federal (but not state and local) offices, the ACLU won a second case in July 2016, requiring Kansas to permit any registered voter to vote for all offices in the state.
    • Third, in a separate case in Washington, D.C., the ACLU along with our partners at the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights won a related case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in September 2016, prohibiting the inclusion of a proof of citizenship requirement in the federal voter registration form.
  • Wisconsin. In July 2016, in a case brought by the ACLU and the ACLU of Wisconsin, a federal judge ruled that voters who lack ID must be given an opportunity to vote in the November election by signing an affidavit at the polls. The court had previously found that approximately 300,000 registered voters in Wisconsin lack ID. Unfortunately, this ruling was stayed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, which means that Wisconsin’s restrictive voter ID law is in full effect for this election.

  • North Carolina. In July 2016, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit struck down North Carolina’s monster voter suppression law, which, among other things, had imposed a new voter ID requirement, slashed a week of early voting, and eliminated same-day registration. The effect of the law would have been devastating. Evidence in the case showed that:

    • more than 300,000 registered voters in North Carolina lack ID
    • in 2012, nearly 900,000 people voted on the early voting days that the state had sought to eliminate
    • more than 90,000 people used same-day registration.

      The case was brought on behalf of the League of Women Voters and other organizations by the ACLU, the ACLU of North Carolina, and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice.

  • Ohio, again. In September 2016, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled that Ohio had engaged in an illegal purge of voters, targeting tens of thousands of legitimate voters for removal from the rolls simply because they had not voted in recent elections. The ACLU of Ohio and Demos brought the case on behalf of the A. Phillip Randolph Institute.
  • Florida. On October 11, 2016, the ACLU of Florida and the ACLU, representing Mi Familia Vota and New Florida Majority, intervened in a lawsuit to extend the voter registration deadline in Florida due to disruptions caused by Hurricane Matthew and the governor’s evacuation order, which required over 1.5 million residents in 25 counties to evacuate during the last week of the voter registration period. The following day, the court ordered that Florida’s voter registration be extended by one week. During that week-long extension of the voter registration period, over 110,000 people registered to vote.
  • West Virginia. After a the clerk of Cabell County, West Virginia, refused to register voters who applied to register to vote online, the ACLU of West Virginia and the ACLU won a ruling on October 25, 2016, requiring that all such voter registration applications be processed. More than 4,000 people had applied to register online in Cabell County.

Together these rulings directly affect more than 5.6 million voters in 12 states that collectively are home to 161 members of the House of Representatives and wield 185 votes in the Electoral College.

But we are not done yet. The ACLU will be doing everything we can to protect your right to vote in the days leading up to Election Day and on Election Day itself. And we’ll be back at work the next morning, preparing for the next election.

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