A Small But Significant Win? NV Voting Rights Case sent back to Federal District Court

ballot box There was a small but perhaps significant win yesterday for those who believe that ALL eligible citizens in Nevada should have to opportunity to register to vote.

“A federal appeals court on Thursday revived a lawsuit alleging that the Nevada Health and Human Services Department has been disenfranchising potential low-income and disabled voters by not providing registration materials to clients at its offices as required by federal law.

The civil rights lawsuit, filed in 2012 by the National Council of Las Raza and two branches of the NAACP, had been dismissed by U.S. District Court Judge Robert Clive Jones after he determined the groups had no standing to bring the claims.

A panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that decision, reviving the complaint that Nevada state officials are violating Section 7 of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 by failing to make voter registration materials available to people who visit their offices.” [LVRJ]

Note, the Appeals Court isn’t saying that the NV HHS was, in fact, in violation of federal statutes, but that the District Court erred in declaring that the original plaintiffs didn’t have standing to file their suit.  Voting rights groups were pleased with the decision:

Voting rights groups Demos, Project Vote, and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which represented the plaintiffs along with the law firms Dechert LLP and Woodburn and Wedge, applauded the decision.

“Today’s decision is a victory for low-income voters in Nevada and the community groups that serve them,” said Brenda Wright, Vice President for Legal Strategies at Demos. “The Ninth Circuit’s decision recognizes the fundamental importance of access to the courts in protecting the right to vote. We are pleased that the Ninth Circuit has rectified a miscarriage of justice by reinstating our clients’ voting rights claims.”

In its opinion, the Court rejected Nevada’s argument that the plaintiffs—organizations that conduct voter registration drives in low-income communities throughout the State—were not harmed by the state’s violations of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) and therefore lacked “standing” to challenge them. 

“The Court recognized that Nevada is answerable to community groups that have been forced to pick up the slack for the State’s failure to fulfill its legal obligations,” said Sarah Brannon, Director of Project Vote’s Government Agency Voter Registration Program.”  [more at Demos]

This, of course, will not please the “election integrity” crowd who will assert that voting is a sort of privilege, a reward for being a “taxpayer” – as if members of minority groups, and those who need social services aren’t “real” taxpayers.  They will, no doubt, continue to whine that their lack of success in some elections can’t possibly be because they lack candidates who appeal to a majority, ergo it must be because the “other side” cheated in some conspiratorial way.  In short, any election they don’t win must necessarily be fraudulent.

No, a “fraudulent” election is one in which there is ample evidence of voter suppression, indications that minority community members were sent misleading and downright inaccurate information, activities such as those of the infamous Nathan Sproul, sweeping voter roll purges, and such suppressive legislation as photo IDs which are difficult for rural, elderly, and non-white voters to access.

Here’s hoping the Federal District Court will take a more constructive view of the issues raised in this case, and will direct that more eligible individuals will be encouraged to participate in Nevada elections.

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Filed under elections, Nevada news, Nevada politics, Vote Suppression, Voting

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