This case arises out of the deployment of pepper spray by the Graham Police Department and Alamance County Sheriff’s Office on peaceful protestors on October 31, 2020. Protesters had been demonstrating in Graham, North Carolina as part of the “I am Change: Legacy March to the Polls” (the “March”), which was organized to encourage “people to go to the polls and vote for change” and “serve as a moment of political power for Black communities.” The March took place on the last day of early voting and voter registration in North Carolina, on the last Saturday before the 2020 general election, and was intended to culminate near the City of Graham’s Elm Street polling place. On at least three occasions during the March, police officers deployed pepper spray on March attendees, which included elderly and disabled individuals as well as young children. Certain March attendees had intended to register to vote and/or vote after the March but were unable to do so as a result of the police violence that day.
On November 2, 2020, LDF filed a lawsuit in the Middle District of North Carolina on behalf of three individuals who attended the March and one community organization with members at the March, some of whom had intended to vote after the March but were impeded from doing so. The Complaint—brought against the City of Graham and its Chief of Police, the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office and its Sheriff, and certain Doe officers and deputies of the Graham Police Department and Alamance County Sheriff’s Office—asserts claims for violation of Section 11(b) of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Section 1985(3) of the KKK Act, and the 1st and 4th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.
On December 1, 2020, counsel for Defendants filed a consent motion requesting that LDF’s case be consolidated a separate action filed by the ACLU and Lawyers’ Committee of North Carolina, representing a separate set of March attendees. The Court granted consolidation of the two cases on December 4, 2020 “for all pre-trial proceedings, and, subject to review closer to trial.”
On December 11, 2020, LDF filed an Amended Complaint, which added, inter alia, (i) three additional plaintiffs (including one individual who had intended to register to vote and vote at the end of the March but was unable to do so as a result of his pepper-spray injuries—thereby missing his ability to vote in 2020 general election altogether as the March took place on the last day of early voting), (ii) one additional Defendant (an employee of the Graham Police Department), and (iii) claims under the North Carolina constitution and common law.
The City of Graham Defendants filed a motion to dismiss, and the Alamance County Defendants filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings in February and March 2021, respectively. These motions were fully briefed and submitted to the Court as of April 2021.
On May 10, 2021, however—while those motions were pending—the parties (in LDF’s case only) proceeded to mediation. As a result of mediation, the parties reached a settlement in principle that is not yet public to resolve all claims in the action. The LDF action has been stayed pending the finalization of settlement and the necessary governmental approvals of the same by the Graham City Council and Alamance County Board of Commissioners.
In June 2021, the plaintiffs represented by LDF, co-counsel Covington & Burling, LLP and veteran civil rights lawyer, Geraldine Sumter of Ferguson Chambers & Sumter, P.A. reached a settlement in Allen v. Graham.
On September 7, 2021, the NAACP LDF and co-counsel filed a federal lawsuit challenging S.B. 1, a new Texas law that greatly restricts access to voting. S.B. 1 includes several suppressive voting provisions that will make it much harder for Texans to vote and disenfranchise some altogether, particularly Black and Latino voters and voters with disabilities.
Texas has a long history of voter discrimination, and S.B. 1 is the latest chapter in this shameful legacy. S.B. 1 is a clear attack on the rights of Black and Brown voters who turned out in record numbers to vote in the 2020 election. Texas legislators designed a bill that targets voting methods – including ‘drive thru’ voting, drop boxes, and 24-hour early voting – that Black and Brown Texans relied on to safely cast their ballots during the pandemic.
The lawsuit argues that S.B. 1 violates the First, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act by intentionally targeting and burdening methods and means of voting used by voters of color. The plaintiffs, Houston Area Urban League, Houston Justice, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., The Arc of Texas, and Jeffrey Lamar Clemmons, also claim that the law violates the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Section 208 of the Voting Rights Act by imposing voting barriers that will discriminate against voters with disabilities and deny people with disabilities full and equal opportunities to participate in the state’s voting programs.
Read here for more information about LDF’s lawsuit challenging Texas’s new voting law.
On March 30, 2021, LDF and co-counsel filed a federal lawsuit challenging Georgia’s sweeping new voter suppression law, S.B. 202, on behalf of the Sixth District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Georgia Muslim Voter Project, Women Watch Afrika, Latino Community Fund of Georgia, and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. S.B. 202 will restrict access to voting and disproportionately burden voters of color, new citizens, and religious communities.
The lawsuit challenges multiple provisions in S.B. 202, including its:
These provisions, the lawsuit charges, violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, and infringe on Georgians’ rights under the First, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.
On May 24, 2021, LDF and its co-counsel filed an amended complaint, which you can read here, adding additional plaintiffs, The Arc Georgia, Georgia ADAPT, the Georgia Advocacy Office, and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
Since the passage of S.B. 202, a campaign of misinformation about the bill has been circulating suggesting that the bill doesn’t harm voting rights, and in fact expands voting access. Here’s the truth about what S.B. 202 actually does and how it was enacted.
On January 20, 2021, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) filed an amicus brief in Brnovich v Democratic National Committee (DNC), the lead in consolidated cases before the United States Supreme Court. The case concerned the scope of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) and the VRA’s ability to address present-day vote denial schemes. LDF’s brief illuminated how the text, history, and Congress’s purpose in enacting Section 2 – which prohibits all racially discriminatory voting laws – requires consideration of all circumstances that burden Black voters, contrary to the restrictive view of Section 2 urged by government defendants, the State of Arizona.
Brnovich was the first case after 1982 in which the Supreme Court interpreted Section 2 as applied to vote denial claims. These claims involve challenges to discriminatory voting rules, like voter identification laws, cuts to early voting, and other barriers to registration or voting, that block voting or make it harder to vote.
In 2016, the DNC sued the state of Arizona, claiming that two of its voting policies violated the VRA. In 2020, the full Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that Arizona’s ban on out-of-precinct voting (which bars the counting of in-person ballots that are cast outside of a voter’s assigned polling place on Election Day) and a ballot-collection law (which makes it a crime for certain third parties to handle mail-in ballots) violate Section 2. Arizona appealed to the Supreme Court in April 2020.
In its 2013 Shelby County decision, the Supreme Court removed a different provision of the Voting Rights Act, Section 5, which had prevented Arizona from implementing a voting policy at issue in this case. This decision left Section 2 of the VRA as the primary tool that Black and other voters of color have to address current racial discrimination in voting. Plaintiffs in this case successfully relied on Section 2 to challenge Arizona’s discriminatory voting restrictions, but Arizona then sought to overturn that result by urging the Supreme Court to narrow the reach of Section 2.
On July 1, 2021, the United States Supreme Court issued its decision in Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee, holding that the Voting Rights Act does not prohibit Arizona’s limitations on out-of-precinct voting and ballot collection, notwithstanding evidence that those provisions had a discriminatory result for voters of color and notwithstanding the lack of any evidence that the provisions were necessary to serve any legitimate state interest. In its opinion, a sharply divided Court narrowed the scope of Section 2 by imposing burdens on voters seeking to vindicate their rights under Section 2 that do not have support in the statute’s text or history.
The Court’s decision creates new and additional burdens to challenges of discriminatory voting laws. In doing so, it resists the storied and tragic history of sacrifice by Black Americans that led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act, and the democratic ideals the Act was passed to protect. This case underscores the urgent need for Congress to pass robust and comprehensive federal voting rights legislation to protect the right to vote, with provisions like those found in the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.
On November 20, 2020, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), filed a complaint on behalf of the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization and three Detroit residents in a lawsuit challenging President Trump and the Trump Campaign’s ongoing efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election by disenfranchising Black voters in Michigan.
The lawsuit claims that both the president and his campaign are in violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Exerting pressure on state and local officials not to count or certify voters is prohibited by Section 11(b) because it involves conduct that “intimidate[s], threaten[s], or coerce[s], or attempt[s] to intimidate, threaten, or coerce” people involved in “aiding any person to vote or attempt to vote.”
On December 22, 2020, the NAACP LDF, filed an amended complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, adding the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) as a plaintiff, and the Republican National Committee (RNC) as a defendant.
Under the Voting Rights Act, voting is specifically defined to include “all action necessary to make a vote effective in any … election, including, but not limited to … having such ballot counted properly and included in the appropriate totals of votes cast with respect to candidates for public or party office and propositions for which votes are received in an election.”
Our action seeks to protect the integrity of votes cast by Black voters in Detroit from the president’s attempts to overturn the will of voters expressed at the ballot box.
On May 6, 2021, the LDF and co-counsel filed a federal lawsuit against Secretary of State Laurel M. Lee challenging Florida’s new law that greatly obstructs voting access. The lawsuit argues that S.B. 90 creates unnecessary barriers and burdens that disproportionately impact Black and Latinx voters and voters with disabilities, violating Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, the First, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
S.B. 90 adds unnecessary restrictions to every stage of the vote by mail (VBM) process, making it harder for voters to request a VBM ballot and return their completed ballots. S.B. 90 likely criminalizes giving water or snacks to voters waiting in line, a provision especially harmful to Black and Latinx voters who are more likely to endure long lines at the polls than white voters.
Turnout in the 2020 general election was over 77%, the highest in 28 years in Florida—despite an ongoing global pandemic. About 44% of votes were cast by mail. Over 500,000 Black voters cast mail ballots in 2020, more than twice as many as in 2016 and 2018. S.B. 90 and its severe restrictions on the VBM process are a direct response to unprecedented Black participation in VBM in the 2020 election. The Legislature enacted S.B 90. despite there being no evidence of fraud or irregularities in the 2020 Florida elections.
S.B. 90 is the latest law advanced by a legislature and governor who are clearly committed to prioritizing voting restrictions over adhering to public calls for expanding voting access. The wave of voter suppression bills being pushed through legislatures across the nation is a retaliatory attempt to suppress Black voters after a historic election. Lawmakers spent months peddling baseless myths and dangerous conspiracy theories to justify their attacks on voting rights and undermine our democracy.
LDF’s lawsuit challenges multiple provisions in S.B. 90, including:
The signing of S.B. 90 in Florida came just weeks after LDF filed a lawsuit challenging S.B. 202 in Georgia, a sweeping voter suppression bill signed into law by Gov. Brian Kemp in March. Lawmakers in Florida and across the country have taken Georgia’s S.B. 202 as the blueprint for their assault on voting rights, and introduced strikingly similar voter suppression legislation based on meritless myths about election fraud and false information.
Read here for important facts about LDF’s lawsuit challenging Florida’s new voting law.
On December 17, 2021, the judge granted in part and denied in part the Defendants’ motion for summary judgment. The motion was denied as to all counts except with respect to Plaintiffs’ facial challenge to the non-solicitation provision under the First Amendment. The case is set for trial.
On August 20, 2020, LDF and co-counsel filed a lawsuit on behalf of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People against the United States Postal Service (USPS).
Our suit, which was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, argues that recent changes by USPS were implemented in violation of federal law and have led to widespread disruptions in mail delivery that risk delaying the delivery of mail-in ballots—thereby causing voter disenfranchisement—for the November 2020 election.
The NAACP, the nation’s largest and oldest civil rights grassroots organization, and its members rely on the timely delivery of the mail for a variety of important functions, including mail-in voting.
On December 17, 2021, on behalf of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), LDF and Public Citizen Litigation group obtained a settlement in the case NAACP v. United States Postal Service. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to challenge the U.S. Postal Service delivery delays and inadequate measures to ensure timely delivery of mail-in ballots.
Under the settlement, the Postal Service agreed to meet with NAACP in the months before each national primary and general election through 2028 and to provide weekly reports on service performance during the six weeks leading up to general elections. The Postal service will also issue guidance documents to address its plans for prioritizing the monitoring and timely delivery of election mail for the national general elections through 2028.
The parties expect that these measures will be similar to the “extraordinary measures” used in the weeks leading up to the 2020 general election. Those measures, which the court required the Postal Service to implement in response to motions by the NAACP, helped to ensure that the vast majority of mailed ballots were delivered to the boards of elections in time to be counted.
Provisions of the settlement requiring the Postal Service to publicly issue guidance documents, to meet with NAACP, and to provide data will be enforceable in court.
On March 27, 2020, The NAACP LDF filed a lawsuit on behalf of Black voters and the Christian Ministerial Alliance against Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson and Secretary of State John Thurston for failing to take adequate steps to protect the fundamental right to vote ahead of 2020 elections, including the runoff occurring on March 31, 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
LDF is asking the Court to immediately order Arkansas to accept absentee ballots postmarked by Election Day (March 31) and received within 10 days of Election Day.
Earlier this month, LDF sent a letter to Secretary Thurston urging him to take steps to protect voters in the current crisis.
On May 7, 2020, LDF filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana challenging several provisions of Louisiana’s absentee and early voting laws and procedures that, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, unduly and severely burden the fundamental right to vote in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments and the Voting Rights Act. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the Power Coalition for Equity and Justice, the Louisiana State Conference of the NAACP, and four individual voters.
Currently, voters in Louisiana must identify an “excuse” to be eligible to vote by absentee ballot. The Secretary of State has allowed voters with specific underlying medical conditions or who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 to request an absentee ballot, but does not include any accommodation that would permit all eligible voters who have concerns about contracting or transmitting COVID-19 to receive an absentee ballot.
Louisiana also requires that absentee ballots be signed by a witness to confirm that the identity of the voter matches the ballot. This requirement endangers vulnerable voters by forcing them to leave their home or invite others into their home, increasing the likelihood of infection.
The complaint explains that the expansion of absentee ballot access is also essential because it reduces the number of people who vote in person, which is important to maintain social distancing at polling places. Similarly, the lawsuit seeks to reduce crowds at polling places by advocating for an extension of early voting. On June 23, 2020, the case was dismissed.
On August 3, 2020, LDF filed another lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana challenging Louisiana’s failure to ensure all eligible voters can vote safely in the upcoming elections amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The lawsuit challenges both Louisiana’s restrictions on the use of absentee mail-in ballots and its reduction of the early voting period from thirteen days during the July and August 2020 elections to seven for the November and December 2020 elections. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the Louisiana State Conference of the NAACP, the Power Coalition for Equity and Justice, and three individual voters.
Less than two months into Louisiana’s attempted reopening and roll-back of COVID-19 protection measures, the rate of infection climbed significantly. Despite this increase, Louisiana has failed to extend even the baseline modifications that were in place for the primary and municipal elections to protect voters during the November and December 2020 elections.
On April 24, 2020, LDF and co-counsel filed a lawsuit on behalf of four voters and the Family Unit, Inc. The lawsuit raises claims under the Voting Rights Act and the First and Fourteenth Amendments.
The complaint alleges that, in light of the COVID-19 crisis, the lack of no-excuse absentee voting and the requirement that voters have a witness sign their absentee ballot place discriminatory and unconstitutional burdens on the right to vote. The lawsuit asks the court to block the state from enforcing the requirements while COVID-19 transmission is occurring; issue guidance instructing local election officials to count otherwise validly cast absentee ballots that are missing a witness signature for South Carolina’s primary and general elections in 2020; and conduct a public information campaign informing voters about the elimination of the witness and excuse requirements at this time.
On May 25, 2020, a United States District Court for the District of South Carolina Columbia Division judge ruled to block the South Carolina requirement that forced people who vote absentee to obtain a witness signature. The ruling, which applied to the June primary, made it safer for South Carolinians to vote during the COVID-19 pandemic.
If LDF and co-counsel did not successfully challenge the requirement and it had been allowed to stay in effect it could have disenfranchised tens of thousands of eligible voters who could not risk contact with other individuals to vote in person or obtain a witness signature on their absentee ballot. This case is scheduled for trial in September 2020 in order to secure relief for the November 2020 election.
On May 1, 2020, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) and co-counsel filed a federal lawsuit against Alabama Governor Kay Ivey, Secretary of State John Merrill, and others over the state’s lack of safe and accessible voting processes amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of People First of Alabama, Greater Birmingham Ministries, the Alabama State Conference of the NAACP, and four individual voters with medical conditions that make them especially vulnerable to death or serious illness from COVID-19. The lawsuit requests that the court instruct state officials to make absentee and in-person voting more accessible to protect the health and safety of Alabama voters.
The lawsuit also notes that these measures are particularly important for older voters, voters with disabilities, and African American voters, who have been severely and disproportionately affected by COVID-19. Despite making up around one-fourth of the state’s population, Black people account for 45 percent of Alabama’s COVID-19-related deaths.
On Friday, July 17, 2020, Alabama’s Secretary of State announced that no-excuse absentee voting would continue through the November 3, 2020, elections. The announcement is a massive win in the fight for accessible voting amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The Secretary’s decision comes after the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. and co-counsel, filed a July 6, 2020, amended complaint in People First of Alabama v. Merrill, which alleged that the lack of no-excuse absentee voting endangered the lives of high-risk voters in violation of the U.S. Constitution and federal civil rights laws.
This victory also comes despite the Supreme Court’s July 2 stay order, which temporarily blocked a federal court’s preliminary injunction ruling in favor of plaintiffs.
On May 28, 2019, Governor Ron DeSantis signed SB7066 into law. SB7066 requires that returning citizens pay all financial obligations specified within a sentencing document before registering to vote; disproportionately harming low-income and racial minority returning citizens based on the well-documented and understood racial disparities in Florida’s criminal justice system and Florida’s racial wealth gap.
Within a few hours of the bill’s signing, LDF, along with the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Florida, and Brennan Center for Justice filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida. The lawsuit challenges certain portions of SB7066 on behalf of the Florida NAACP, the Orange County Branch of the NAACP, the League of Women Voters of Florida, and 10 individual Plaintiffs.
On February 19, 2020, a federal appeals court upheld a ruling blocking a Florida law that created wealth-based hurdles to voting and significantly curtailed Florida’s Voting Restoration Amendment, also known as Amendment 4, which sought to end lifetime disenfranchisement and automatically restore voting rights to 1.4 million Floridians.
The law would have disenfranchised hundreds of thousands of Florida voters by making the right to vote contingent on returning citizens’ ability to pay all legal financial obligations. On May 24, 2020, a federal court ruled that a Florida law that created wealth-based hurdles to voting was unconstitutional. The May 24 decision was blocked by the 11th Circuit. On August 4, 2020, LDF, with other groups, filed a brief urging a federal appeals court to uphold a decision that concluded a Florida law that created wealth-based hurdles to voting is unconstitutional.
On February 27, 2020, LDF and co-counsel Ballard Spahr LLP and the NAAP General Counsel’s Office filed a Petition for Review in the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court challenging Pennsylvania’s practice of counting imprisoned people where they are incarcerated rather than at their previous home addresses for purposes of state legislative redistricting.
This practice, known as “prison-based gerrymandering,” has the effect of inflating the political power of the predominantly white voters who live in the rural districts where most of Pennsylvania’s prisons are located, while diluting the political power of the largely Black and Latino voters who live in the urban districts from which most of the state’s prison population originates.
The Commonwealth Court dismissed the case on procedural grounds without reaching the merits, holding that the LRC was a necessary party to the claim. However, following LDF’s lawsuit, on August 24, 2021, the Pennsylvania Legislative Reapportionment Commission (LRC) voted 3-2 to end prison-based gerrymandering in the state’s legislative redistricting maps. The decision follows sustained advocacy from local residents and organizations, including the NAACP and the Pennsylvania State NAACP – represented by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF), the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, the Abolitionist Law Center, and Ballard Spahr’s Racial Justice & Equality Initiative – who submitted testimony arguing that the practice of counting incarcerated people as residents of the prisons in which they are involuntarily and temporarily held violates Pennsylvania law and contributes to racial injustice and unequal representation in the state.
The LRC acknowledged that counting incarcerated people as residents of their prisons, rather than from the districts they come from, results in the artificial distortion of population counts based on where officials decide to locate prisons. Pennsylvania’s prison population comes disproportionately from its cities and metropolitan areas, which are in turn home to Pennsylvania’s communities of color, while the state’s prison facilities are located in more rural areas where more white residents live. The result of the practice is the dilution of the voting and representational rights of Pennsylvanians of color in particular.
LDF has advocated against prison-based gerrymandering – in state legislatures, courts, and communities, as well as before the U.S. Census Bureau – for nearly two decades. As the first and foremost civil rights legal organization in the country, LDF is firmly committed to achieving legal protections that will allow people of color, and all people, to be fairly counted and represented in our democracy.
In fall 2018, LDF filed a lawsuit against Waller County on behalf of Prairie View A&M University (PVAMU) student voters, alleging that the county discriminated against them by adopting and maintaining an early voting schedule for the November 2018 election that limited their access to early voting. Since 2018, Waller has refused to provide on-campus early voting at PVAMU.
On July 15, 2020, the Southern District Court of Texas ruled that PVAMU students and a PVAMU student-organization will have their day in court to demonstrate why Waller County’s November 2018 early voting schedule violated the U.S. Constitution and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
Trial was held remotely via Zoom from September 28, 2020 through October 15, 2020. At the conclusion of the trial, the Court ordered the parties to meet to discuss the potential for settlement and submit a joint status report on the potential for settlement by November 16, 2020. The court also ordered the parties to file proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law by December 2020. Subsequently, the court extended the filing deadline to March 22, 2021.
On March 29, 2021, Plaintiffs filed their Proposed Post-Trial findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law and Post-Trial Memorandum of Law. The next day, Defendants filed their Proposed Post-Trial Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law and Post-Trial Memorandum of Law, and an unopposed motion for leave to late-file these briefs, which the court granted.
In December 2015, LDF filed a lawsuit on behalf of Greater Birmingham Ministries and the Alabama NAACP challenging Alabama’s restrictive photo voter ID law (“HB 19”). Although Alabama’s voter ID law was passed in June 2011, the State did not begin to implement it until after the Shelby County v. Holder decision in June 2014.
On January 10, 2018, U.S. District Court Judge L. Scott Coogler issued a ruling dismissing LDF’s lawsuit in Greater Birmingham Ministries v. Merrill. On January 12, 2018, LDF filed a notice of appeal in the lawsuit challenging Alabama’s racially discriminatory photo ID law.
On February 21, 2018, LDF filed an appeal arguing that the district court should not have granted the Secretary of State’s motion for summary judgment and disregarded powerful evidence that the photo ID law intentionally discriminated against and burdened Black and Latino voters.
On July 21, 2020, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion upholding Alabama’s voter photo ID law. On August 10, 2020, LDF filed a petition for rehearing en banc for this lawsuit.
United States v. Texas / Veasey v. Perry is LDF’s more than six-year fight against SB 14, Texas’s restrictive photo ID law, and any legislation that bears the discriminatory taint of that law. SB 14 was previously blocked through the Voting Rights Act Section 5 litigation in 2012. Following the Shelby County decision in 2013, Texas immediately (and successfully) petitioned to vacate the Section 5 decision. Consequently, DOJ and LDF, in addition to other private plaintiffs, challenged SB 14 again under Section 2 of the VRA and the Constitution.
On April 10, 2017, a federal district court found in Veasey v. Abbott that Texas bill SB 14 – the strictest photo ID law in the country – was enacted to purposefully discriminate against Black and Latino voters. The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) first challenged and defeated the bill in 2012 under the then-preclearance provision of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which was struck down by the Supreme Court in Shelby v. Holder in 2013.
No longer subject to preclearance requirements, Texas immediately moved to implement the law. LDF has since fought vigorously to eliminate it. This is the fourth successive win in this case by Black and Latino voters who have challenged voter suppression efforts in the state. Specifically, the trial court found that “at least one of the substantial or motivating factors behind the passage of Texas’ voter ID law was to discriminate against African American and Latino voters.”
On November 7, 2017, LDF and its co-counsel filed an appellate brief before a three-judge court of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, urging that court to affirm the federal trial court’s finding of intentional racial discrimination in Veasey v. Abbott – a challenge to Texas’ voter ID law. On December 5, 2017, LDF and co-counsel appeared in a federal appeals court to protect successful challenges to Texas’ voter ID law (SB 14), the strictest voter ID law in the country, and its descendant, SB 5.
On April 27, 2018, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals determined that Texas’ current photo voter ID law, S.B. 5, sufficiently remedies discrimination against Black and Latino voters. The decision reverses a lower court order that blocked Texas from enforcing that law and an earlier iteration of it.
On February 3, 2014, LDF filed a lawsuit under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments seeking to vindicate the fundamental right to vote for Black voters in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the Terrebonne Parish Branch NAACP and four individual Black voters, after six unsuccessful legislative attempts and other advocacy over nearly 30 years to change the voting method in the district.
After an eight-day bench trial in March and April of 2017, the court issued a ruling in favor of Black residents who seek an opportunity to elect a judge of their choice to the state trial court bench, upholding both claims that at-large elections for the judge produce discriminatory results, violating Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, and have been maintained for a discriminatory purpose in violation of that statue and the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments.
However on June 30, 2020, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s decision in the case, ruling against Black residents who sought an opportunity to elect a judge of their choice to the trial court bench. On July 13, 2020, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) filed a petition for a rehearing en banc.
As the petition details, a panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals erroneously reached the merits of the case before determining a jurisdictional issue and also erred by discounting and ignoring substantial proof of racial discrimination in Terrebonne elections, including an incident where a sitting judge was re-elected under the challenged voting system after appearing in public in black-face.
On December 13, 2018, LDF filed a lawsuit under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments challenging the at-large electoral system for the City Council of Pleasant Grove, Alabama. The at-large elections for the five-member City Council have ensured that no Black candidate has ever been successfully elected. Pleasant Grove has a well-documented history of racial discrimination in voting, education, employment, and housing.
In City of Pleasant Grove v. United States (1987), the U.S. Supreme Court found that the city had intentionally discriminated when it annexed nearby unincorporated white communities, but not similarly situated Black communities. In October 2019, the court approved a final settlement between Plaintiffs and the City of Pleasant Grove, pursuant to which the City agreed to change its electoral method to cumulative voting, where each voter will be allowed as many votes as there are vacant seats on the City Council.
The new election methods will be implemented beginning with the municipal election scheduled on August 25, 2020.
On June 10, 2019, LDF filed a lawsuit under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, challenging the method of electing judges to the Arkansas Supreme Court and Court of Appeals, which have diluted the voting strength of Back voters in Arkansas and denied Black voters an equal opportunity to participate in the political process and elect candidates of their choice for decades as no Black judge has ever been elected to either court.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of individual Black voters and two non-profit organizations, Christian Ministerial Alliance and Arkansas Community Institute, which are both dedicated to furthering racial justice in the state of Arkansas and empowering voters.
On February 21, 2020, the district court granted Defendants’ motion to dismiss, but allowed Plaintiffs ten days to add additional allegations. The court agreed with Defendants’ sovereign immunity defense and therefore dismissed the State Defendants in their entirety. The court further held that Plaintiffs had pleaded sufficient facts under prongs two and three of Gingles but had not pleaded sufficient facts regarding prong one. The Court gave Plaintiffs ten days to present such additional allegations.
Plaintiffs filed their amended complaint on March 2, 2020, and Defendants filed their answer 14 days later. Thereafter, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Defendants filed a motion to stay discovery which Plaintiffs opposed. On April 10, 2020, the Court denied in part the Defendants’ motion and ordered the parties to move forward with the production of election data.
On September 16, 2021, the parties filed respective motions for summary judgment, which are fully briefed. Trial is set to begin during the week of January 18, 2022.
On December 16, 2019, the district court entered an order granting a joint motion the parties agreed to at the time of filing to resolve this voting rights litigation. The court’s order recognized that the use of an at-large multimember district for the Jefferson County Board of Education discriminated against Black voters in violation of both Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and the Fourteenth Amendment.