Civil Rights Organizations Urge U.S. Attorney General Jeff Session to Withdraw Subpoenas for Massive Amount of Voter Records and Information

DURHAM, N.C. – A coalition of national, regional, and state-based civil rights organizations has sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions urging the withdrawal of recently issued subpoenas in North Carolina that sought millions of voter records in the state.  The letter makes it clear that the subpoenas:

  • Target people of color, immigrants, and low-income communities in the state in a manner that would intimidate most reasonable people;
  • Should not be used as part of a fishing expedition;
  • Seek voter information that must remain protected according to well-established law; and,
  • Have already interfered with the regular preparation for upcoming elections.

“It’s clear that these subpoenas are a fishing expedition that aims to intimidate voters of color in North Carolina,” stated Kareem Crayton, Interim Executive Director of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. “Americans should have the peace of mind to know that when they cast their ballot, it is not going to examined by government officials in a way that discloses personally identifying information and how they voted.  This effort not only undermines the privacy interests of voters, it also eliminates a crucial element of every free and fair election — the secrecy of the ballot.”

 

Organizations that signed onto the letter include:

  • Southern Coalition for Social Justice
  • Democracy North Carolina
  • North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP
  • North Carolina Justice Center
  • Common Cause North Carolina
  • NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc.
  • LatinoJustice PRLDEF
  • NALEO Educational Fund
  • Demos
  • American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

 

Noteworthy excerpts from the letter:

  • “We are deeply concerned that these excessive discovery demands are intended to amplify the incredibly few examples of voting irregularities that actually exist within the voting process and to falsely manufacture a perception that massive voting fraud has occurred in this State. We believe that any such ‘evidence’ is intended to be used as a basis for justifying future voter suppression efforts.” (1)
  • “The extremely broad and unprecedented subpoenas extend far beyond the scope of any legitimate law enforcement objective and threaten voters’ constitutional right to cast a ballot free from fear and intimidation as well as their expectation that their personally identifiable information and their voting preferences will remain private in accordance with the law.” (1)
  • “Indeed, neither an informally negotiated revision of these subpoenas nor formal legal action by the State of North Carolina in fighting the subpoenas would be adequate to address the lasting damage your actions would pose to a free and fair election in this state.” (1)
  • “Given the State’s recent voting rights history and the lived experiences of voters of color, these voters will surely find the fact that the ICE Subpoenas target their region, while offering no explanation for doing so, to be both ominous and intimidating.” (2)
  • “Nothing about the language that an individual speaks or uses to fill out forms creates any reason to believe that a crime has been committed, voting related or otherwise, and any suggestion to the contrary is discriminatory and intimidating.” (2)
  • “The ICE Subpoenas would not only revive the threat of government-sanctioned voter intimidation, but they would ironically destroy what has been an essential protection against election fraud. For these reasons, subpoenaing the voting records of millions of North Carolinians is unreasonable and oppressive, and the demand for cast ballots must be withdrawn in its entirety.” (3)

 

The full text of the letter is available below and can be viewed as a PDF at http://bit.ly/LetterToDOJ

Full text of the letter:

September 26, 2018,

 

Attorney General Jeff Sessions

U.S. Department of Justice

950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20530-0001

 

Deputy and Acting Director Ron Vitiello

Immigration and Customs Enforcement

500 12th St., SW

Washington, D.C. 20536

Dear Attorney General Sessions and Director Vitiello,

On behalf of the undersigned organizations, we write to strongly request that your agencies immediately cease efforts to subpoena millions of North Carolina voter records in what we believe is an unjustified and likely unlawful fishing expedition. We are deeply concerned that these excessive discovery demands are intended to amplify the incredibly few examples of voting irregularities that actually exist within the voting process and to falsely manufacture a perception that massive voting fraud has occurred in this State. We believe that any such “evidence” is intended to be used as a basis for justifying future voter suppression efforts.

 

In North Carolina recently, representatives of your agencies, only weeks before a major election, issued at least 46 subpoenas seeking millions of state voters’ records. We strongly urge you to immediately withdraw the federal subpoenas which were issued on August 31, 2018, by Assistant U.S. Attorney Sebastian Kielmanovich for the Eastern District of North Carolina and directed to the North Carolina State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement, the County Boards of Elections in all 44 counties in the North Carolina’s Eastern District, and the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles on behalf of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (hereinafter, “ICE Subpoenas”). The extremely broad and unprecedented subpoenas extend far beyond the scope of any legitimate law enforcement objective and threaten voters’ constitutional right to cast a ballot free from fear and intimidation as well as their expectation that their personally identifiable information (hereinafter, “PII”) and their voting preferences will remain private in accordance with the law. Further, given the massive redactions necessary to avoid complete disregard for voters’ rights and the law, responding to these ICE Subpoenas would interfere with the duties of North Carolina’s election officials at any point in any election cycle. The requested ICE Subpoenas will seriously hinder North Carolina election officials’ ability to provide free and fair elections and follow through with the state’s mandate to enhance election security against foreign interference. The apparent concession by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which extended the deadline for responses to the subpoenas until January, does not resolve the underlying issue with the legality or propriety of the subpoenas.  Indeed, neither an informally negotiated revision of these subpoenas nor formal legal action by the State of North Carolina in fighting the subpoenas would be adequate to address the lasting damage your actions would pose to a free and fair election in this state.

 

The ICE Subpoenas became public knowledge on September 4 after an email was sent to all members of the local boards and redacted subpoena language was posted on Twitter. The subpoenas, which were directed to 44 of North Carolina’s eastern counties, seek “all poll books, e-poll books, voting records, and/or voter authorization documents, executed official ballots that were submitted to, filed by, received by, and/or maintained by” the local board of elections “from August 30, 2013 to August 30, 2018.” The subpoenas directed to the State Board of Elections and NC DMV demand documents including all voter registration, early voting, provisional voting, and absentee ballot request forms over an even longer period—from January 1, 2010 through August 30, 2018. These blanket demands for information on individual voters would have required state election officials to compile more than 15 million voting records, within 60 days before a statewide election. Delaying the compliance deadline for these subpoenas until after the November 2018 election does not ease the burden on North Carolina election officials to redact all of the PII that they would be required to redact under state law, nor does it ensure that the redaction of this data that would not connect the individual voters to their official executed ballots, a problem that would exist with every early voting ballot, absentee ballot, or provisional ballot cast in the state.

 

The Subpoenas Target People of Color, Immigrants and Low Income Communities

 

The Eastern District of North Carolina, the jurisdiction of the federal judiciary system at issue here, is comprised of 44 counties. While the region includes only 39% of North Carolina’s voters, nearly 70% of North Carolina’s Native American voters and 46% of its Black voters live in this district. Additionally, of these 44 counties, the majority experience a poverty rate between 15 and 30%, making it the most concentrated region of low-income communities in the state. The region’s communities of color have experienced a long history of voter intimidation and disenfranchisement, including the ninety-year period during which official voting discrimination and physical violence prevented any person of color from being elected as a part of North Carolina’s congressional delegation. Given the State’s recent voting rights history and the lived experiences of voters of color, these voters will surely find the fact that the ICE Subpoenas target their region, while offering no explanation for doing so, to be both ominous and intimidating.

The subpoena directed toward the North Carolina DMV is even more concerning in this regard.  It specifically seeks information on individuals who filled out forms at the DMV in a language other than English.  Nothing about the language that an individual speaks or uses to fill out forms creates any reason to believe that a crime has been committed, voting related or otherwise, and any suggestion to the contrary is discriminatory and intimidating.

 

The Subpoenas Seek Voter Information that Must Remain Protected

 

The ill-considered ICE Subpoenas seek millions of cast ballots, along with absentee and provisional voter documents that would allow ICE to penetrate the sacrosanct veil of ballot secrecy and reveal many voters’ individual choices in past elections. In a September 6, 2018 letter to the General Counsel of the North Carolina State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement, Assistant U.S. Attorney Keilmanovich tellingly admitted that the obtaining the records of votes cast was “not relevant to our inquiry.” He nonetheless continued to demand that the documents be produced, with redactions. In other words, the purported compromise position following the initial outrageous demand was for state officials to devote time and resources to making millions of redactions in service to an ICE demand for information that it never had the authority to make and, apparently, never wanted in the first place.  It is the duty of your office and you, as chief law enforcement officer of the Federal Government, to ensure that subordinate agents are not acting beyond the scope of their authority or in a manner that would interfere with the administration of elections and have an intimidating effect on voters.

 

To be clear, ballot secrecy—the right of citizens to cast a secret ballot, without fear of retaliation—came about because of a “persistent battle against two evils: voter intimidation and election fraud.”Burson v. Freeman, 504 U.S. 191, 206 (1992). The ICE Subpoenas would not only revive the threat of government-sanctioned voter intimidation, but they would ironically destroy what has been an essential protection against election fraud. For these reasons, subpoenaing the voting records of millions of North Carolinians is unreasonable and oppressive, and the demand for cast ballots must be withdrawn in its entirety.

 

The Subpoenas Have Already Interfered with Upcoming Elections

 

As stated above, the amount and types of data demanded by the ICE Subpoenas is unprecedented and massive. The Subpoenas demand detailed information about voting records that include millions of cast ballots that would provide sufficient information to allow ICE to identify not only the choices made on each ballot, but the identity of the specific individual who cast it.  This fact alone should chill any member of a democratic society.

 

North Carolina election officials have already explained, in public meeting, that these incredibly sweeping subpoenas have required an overwhelming amount of their time during a period when their heightened attention is normally required to ensure that the upcoming election is conducted smoothly and securely.  Indeed, because of recent state legislative decisions relating to the content and form of the November ballots that have delayed their development and production, elections officials are already working on a significantly truncated calendar as they seek to manage the fast approaching statewide election. These subpoenas are not only unnecessary and unjustified, but they also have already harmed preparations for the upcoming election and voters’ confidence in it.  As a result of these Subpoenas, thousands of North Carolinians have expressed their concern about having their private voting records and PII turned over to the federal government without reason.  They have not only called upon the State Board of Elections to reject these requests, but are also demanding that U.S. Attorney Robert Higdon withdraw the originally issued subpoenas.

 

In the name of public confidence in the legitimacy of your agencies and the U.S. Constitution’s commitment to protect against voter intimidation and election interference, we strongly request that you quickly and fully repudiate the actions of the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, taken on behalf of ICE, and  that these unprecedented subpoenas be withdrawn immediately.

 

The U.S. Attorney Should Not Use Grand Jury Proceedings as Fishing Expeditions

 

The aforementioned background and peculiar timing of this action strongly suggest that it is a cynical ploy to seek support for the same specious voter fraud narrative that was used to justify the creation of the defunct Pence-Kobach Commission. To many observers, there seems to be more than a passing similarity between the discredited agenda of the disbanded Commission and the unprecedented and broad interest of the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina into the content of state voting records

 

The review of the requested millions of documents in search of perhaps a handful of individual technical violations of voting laws would also undoubtedly entail a massive commitment of federal resources that might otherwise be used to investigate and prosecute crimes that actually pose a threat to the people of North Carolina. Neither your office nor the U.S. Attorney’s Office has made any showing in the public record to justify the scope of these subpoenas, which seek information on millions of voters, nor does it justify the need for an indiscriminate investigation of every vote cast during the designated time period. In the North Carolina State Board of Elections’ Post-2016 Election Audit Report, the board rejected the proposition that participation by ineligible voters was rampant in North Carolina; instead it concluded that in the very few instances where voting irregularities occur, “[m]ost incidents are isolated and uncoordinated, and detecting technical violations does not always prove purposefully unlawful conduct.”  Your agencies have a duty and a responsibility to properly use the power of the federal grand jury system, and to not abuse that power in the process.

 

We the undersigned request that the U.S. Attorney’s Office and ICE immediately instruct their agents to withdraw these subpoenas.

 

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Allison Riggs atallisonriggs@southerncoalition.org or 919-323-3909.

 

Sincerely,

 

The Southern Coalition for Social Justice

Democracy North Carolina

North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP

North Carolina Justice Center

Common Cause North Carolina

NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund

LatinoJustice PRLDEF

NALEO Education Fund

Demos

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

 

Cc: Robert J. Higdon, Jr., U.S. Attorney for the E.D.N.C

 

 

Know Your Voting Rights – Post Hurricane Florence

In the wake of natural disasters, voters frequently get displaced from their homes. That does not mean that these voters lose their right to vote and have their political voices heard. Survivors of Hurricane Florence who have been forced from their homes because of the storm and subsequent flooding have several options available to them to vote this November.

Information about your voting rights is below.  Click here to download a PDF of our Know Your Voting Rights Flier.

1. Voters who have temporarily left their homes and intend to eventually return to the address where they are registered to vote can vote by no-excuse absentee ballot mailed to your temporary address.

  • Any registered voter can request an absentee ballot by submitting an absentee ballot request form in-person or by mail, fax, or email to their county board of elections by 5:00 pm on October 30.
  • The absentee ballot request form can be found here: http://bit.ly/NCAbsentee
  • The completed absentee ballot and return-container envelope, signed by 2 witnesses over age 18 or a notary, must be postmarked or delivered in-person by 5:00 pm on Election Day, November 6.

 

2. Voters who have temporarily left their homes and intend to eventually return to the address where they are registered to vote can also vote during Early Voting or on Election Day in their home county if they have access to transportation and a safe route to the polls.*

  • Voters can vote at any one-stop early voting location in their county from October 17–November 3.
  • Early-voting locations and hours can be found here: http://bit.ly/OneStopVoting
  • Voters can also vote at their assigned “home” precinct on Election Day, November 6, from 6:30 am – 7:30 pm.

 

3. Voters whose homes have been seriously or permanently damaged, are unsure as to whether they will ever be able to return, and intend to remain indefinitely at their current location have the right to register to vote at their new place of residence.

  • Voters can register by submitting a voter registration application in-person or by mail to the county board of elections by October 12. The voter registration application can be found here: http://bit.ly/NCRegistration
  • Voters can also register during the early-voting period using same-day registration by bringing proof of residence, such as a utility bill, bank statement, or government document, to any early voting location.

 

 

 

* Some polling places may have been damaged by the hurricane and may be subject to change. If you are uncertain as to which option best applies in your situation, please don’t hesitate to contact the Southern Coalition for Social Justice at 919-321-1848.

As Urged by SCSJ, North Carolina State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement Directs AG’s Office to Move to Quash Overbroad ICE Subpoenas

RALEIGH, N.C. – Today, the North Carolina State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement unanimously agreed to direct the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office to take all necessary steps to quash the vague, burdensome and potentially illegal subpoenas that the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern North Carolina served in the last week on the State Board and 44 county boards of elections.

Yesterday, the Southern Coalition for Social Justice (SCSJ) submitted to the State Board and its staff an extensive legal memo (http://bit.ly/SubpoenaMemo) providing analysis in support of a move to quash the subpoenas. The State Board also received a supplemental letter from Assistant U.S. Attorney Sebastian Kielmanovich (https://www.scribd.com/document/388011810/Subpoena-Response-US-Attorney#from_embed) offering to retract the original request for cast ballots, which did not fundamentally alter the legal and ethical problems associated with the unprecedented scope of the original subpoenas.

“We commend the State Board for taking steps to defend the privacy interests of North Carolina voters and to prevent likely unlawful fishing expeditions by the federal government that tends to fuel voter suppression and intimidation efforts,” said Allison Riggs, Senior Voting Rights Attorney for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. “North Carolina’s voters can participate in this election with confidence that their State Board of Elections will not shrink from their duty to protect the secrecy of their ballots. And we genuinely hope that the Department of Justice and ICE will get the message that we will not allow anyone to declare open season on North Carolina voters.”

Statement from the Southern Coalition for Social Justice Regarding Changes to the Appearances of Proposed Constitutional Amendments on the 2018 General Election Ballot

RALEIGH, N.C. – The North Carolina General Assembly today passed House Bill 3, Ballot Designations/Referenda, during a hastily called special legislative session. If the measure becomes law, the Constitutional Amendments Publication Commission will lose its well-established authority to draft short captions that would appear on November’s ballot for every North Carolina voter describing six proposed state constitutional amendments. Instead of descriptions created by the commission, the ballots would be designated only with the words “Constitutional Amendment.”

After the Legislature’s passage of House Bill 3, Kareem Crayton, Interim Executive Director of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice issued the following statement:

“Legislative leaders have made clear their intention to keep the voters in the dark about the true impact of the proposed constitutional amendments that will appear on this November’s ballot. Free and fair elections depend on voters knowing exactly what they are being asked to decide. The vague and deceptive ballot language mandated by this legislature undercuts the work of a bipartisan commission whose duty is to assist voters in understanding proposed amendments.

“These desperate, last-minute efforts by this legislature to sugar-coat their scheme to disenfranchise voters undermines the principle of checks and balances and erodes public confidence in elections. Their expensive effort at rule-rigging is shameful, petty politics at its very worst.”

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Statement from June 11 Durham County Board of Commissioners Meeting

The following statement was given by SCSJ attorneys Ian Mance and Whitley Carpenter at the June 11 Durham County Board of Commissioners regarding Durham County’s Fiscal Year 2018-19 Budget:

“My name is Ian Mance. I’m an attorney at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, and we along with Hank Ehlies of South Carolina, represent Ms. Julia Graves, who is here with me tonight. Ms. Graves is the mother of Uniece Fennell, a child, who was found deceased, hanging in the Durham County Detention Facility in March of last year.

We are here tonight because the proposed budget fails to address long-standing safety issues at the facility that Niecey’s death, and other recent deaths, have brought to light. We respectfully urge you to reconsider.

For fifteen years prior to Niecey’s death, the county was aware of a hanging risk that existed in the facility. In 2002, Sheriff Worth Hill circulated a memorandum warning of hanging hazards that existed in the window bars, citing four deaths that had occurred over the prior 6 years. Following those warnings, this commission took no action and chose not to spend the modest sum of money, less than $100,000, that it would have taken to address the issue.

The next year, in 2003, Sheriff Hill wrote to the County Manager, and again urged that “every possible attempt be made to correct these structural facility problems as soon as possible.” Again, this Commission took no action to fund such corrections.

Over the following years, the county was repeatedly warned by state inspectors with the Department of Health and Human Services that it needed to address the hanging hazards in the Durham County Detention Facility. This commission did not fund the needed modifications, and people continued to die. We have had far too many hanging deaths in the facility since it opened in 1996 and countless attempts. Recently, the Sheriff finally made some changes designed to mitigate the hanging risk, but the fact remains it took more than 20 years for action to be taken.

There are other outstanding safety issues at the facility that this budget fails to account for, and we cannot wait another 20 years—we can’t afford to wait even one more year—for this to become a priority.

My client’s daughter, Uniece Fennell, was 16 years old when she was placed in DCDF with adult detainees. In almost any other state, and in many counties here in North Carolina, this would have never happened.

In 2003, the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act set a national standard of total sight and sound separation between detained children and adults. Under federal law, children under 18 are not to be housed or to come in contact with adults in detention facilities. A decade and a half later, Durham County has still failed to meet that standard. Children as young as 16 years old are still placed in dangerous housing situations that they are not in any way prepared to handle. This practice actively endangers the life of every child in custody. And this is no small number of people we’re talking about—we average about a dozen and a half children in detention at any given time.

This budget does not reflect that those children are a priority to this Commission. We are engaging in a practice that almost every county in America has long abandoned, and our budget gives no indication that we are attempting to do anything to change that.

Children who are charged as adults in Durham County need to have their own physical space where their safety can be assured. The Broad Street facility will not take them, and the detention center, where they’re currently housed, does not have a space set aside for them. These children either need to have their own standalone facility in Durham County or the current one needs to be modified to comply with the federal PREA safety standards.

North Carolina began the process last year of raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction. That alone will not solve this problem for you. By 2020, we will end the practice of intermingling children and adults, but it’s not going to build or modify any facilities. If this Commission fails to make this issue a priority, the result will be that children like Niecey will be shipped out of Durham County to state facilities, where it will be difficult if not impossible for their parents and loved ones to visit them and provide them with the support they need during the most difficult time in their lives.

Separately, this Commission needs to take a hard look at the state of medical and psychiatric care in DCDF, which is inadequate, certainly with respect to child detainees. There have been far too many deaths in this facility, and a common thread seems to be inadequate risk assessment at intake and inadequate monitoring of people in order to identify and intervene with respect to serious medical and psychiatric conditions. My client did not learn until after her child had passed away in March that she had been placed on suicide watch the previous November. No one from the jail notified her or involved her in devising an appropriate response. This sort of thing does not happen in a facility that is properly attuned and sensitive to the complex mental and medical needs with which many people in the facility are struggling.

If this Commission is serious about getting a handle on the problems at the jail, it should revisit this proposed budget and commit to allocating the resources necessary to addressing these problems. Thank you.”

Press Release: Voters File Federal Court Challenge to Voter Intimidation Efforts in Virginia

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 12, 2018

Contact:

Dustin Chicurel-Bayard, dustin@scsj.org, 919.323.4051

Mackenzie Long, mlong@wearerally.com, 916.524.3197

 

Voters File Federal Court Challenge to Voter Intimidation Efforts in Virginia

Voter intimidation violates Ku Klux Klan Act, created in 1871 to protect voters
from being harassed when attempting to register or vote

 

ALEXANDRIA, VA – Voters subjected to intimidation efforts and false accusations of illegal voting in Virginia filed a federal lawsuit today, citing violations of the Ku Klux Klan Act and the Voting Rights Act, as well as state defamation laws. The suit was filed in Virginia’s Eastern District federal court. Plaintiffs include the Richmond Council for the League of United Latin American Citizens, as well as four individual voters who were recklessly accused of committing election-related crimes in reports published by the Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF). The defendants in the case are PILF and J. Christian Adams, the organization’s President and General Counsel.

The Southern Coalition for Social Justice and Protect Democracy represent plaintiffs in the case, along with the law firm of Emery Celli Brinkerhoff and Abady LLP and pro bono attorneys.

“The law guarantees that all eligible Americans may participate in elections free from intimidation or libel,” said Allison Riggs, Senior Voting Rights Attorney at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. “It’s troubling that there’s a growing pattern of voter intimidation across the country that targets everyday, private Americans with tactics that bully them and discourage them from registering to vote and casting a ballot for the candidate of their choice.  Such bullying damages the foundation of our democracy and represents the kind of voter intimidation that civil rights laws are designed to eradicate.”

Plaintiffs’ claims relate to two reports released by PILF: Alien Invasion in Virginia and Alien Invasion II. The first report was published in September 2016 and accuses voters of committing multiple felonies, from illegally registering to vote, to casting an ineligible ballot. The follow-up report, accusing even more voters, was released in May 2017.

“Defendants were wildly reckless in the statements they made about our clients.  They should have known that the people they were accusing of felonies were, in fact, eligible voters,” said Andrew G. Celli, Jr. and Alanna Kaufman of the law firm of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP.  “Our clients have committed no crime.  Their names have been smeared and their personal contact information spread widely. This is a modern, covert, and insidious effort to intimidate voters.  It must be remedied.”

The lawsuit asserts that defendants’ conduct  “violates both the Voting Rights Act, see 52 U.S.C. § 10307, and the Ku Klux Klan Act, see 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3), because it intimidates constitutionally eligible voters, like Plaintiffs, into not exercising their right to vote.” (p. 5, LULAC of Richmond v. Public Interest Legal Foundation)

“Regardless of whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, the importance of protecting Americans’ right to vote free of intimidation should be something that all Americans can agree on,” said Cameron Kistler of Protect Democracy.  “Our democracy depends on it.”

The complaint in LULAC of Richmond v. Public Interest Legal Foundation can be found at  https://www.southerncoalition.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/LULAC-of-Richmond-v.-PILF.pdf

 

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The Southern Coalition for Social Justice is a non-partisan legal organization that partners with communities of color and economically disadvantaged communities in the south to defend and advance their political, social and economic rights.

 

Protect Democracy is a non-partisan organization dedicated to preventing our democracy from declining into a more authoritarian form of government.

 

Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP is a litigation boutique that focuses on civil rights, commercial, criminal, and ethics matters.

Press Release: Voters File Federal Court Challenge to Voter Intimidation Efforts in Virginia

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 12, 2018

Contact:

Dustin Chicurel-Bayard, dustin@scsj.org, 919.323.4051

Mackenzie Long, mlong@wearerally.com, 916.524.3197

 

Voters File Federal Court Challenge to Voter Intimidation Efforts in Virginia

Voter intimidation violates Ku Klux Klan Act, created in 1871 to protect voters
from being harassed when attempting to register or vote

 

ALEXANDRIA, VA – Voters subjected to intimidation efforts and false accusations of illegal voting in Virginia filed a federal lawsuit today, citing violations of the Ku Klux Klan Act and the Voting Rights Act, as well as state defamation laws. The suit was filed in Virginia’s Eastern District federal court. Plaintiffs include the Richmond Council for the League of United Latin American Citizens, as well as four individual voters who were recklessly accused of committing election-related crimes in reports published by the Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF). The defendants in the case are PILF and J. Christian Adams, the organization’s President and General Counsel.

The Southern Coalition for Social Justice and Protect Democracy represent plaintiffs in the case, along with the law firm of Emery Celli Brinkerhoff and Abady LLP and pro bono attorneys.

“The law guarantees that all eligible Americans may participate in elections free from intimidation or libel,” said Allison Riggs, Senior Voting Rights Attorney at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. “It’s troubling that there’s a growing pattern of voter intimidation across the country that targets everyday, private Americans with tactics that bully them and discourage them from registering to vote and casting a ballot for the candidate of their choice.  Such bullying damages the foundation of our democracy and represents the kind of voter intimidation that civil rights laws are designed to eradicate.”

Plaintiffs’ claims relate to two reports released by PILF: Alien Invasion in Virginia and Alien Invasion II. The first report was published in September 2016 and accuses voters of committing multiple felonies, from illegally registering to vote, to casting an ineligible ballot. The follow-up report, accusing even more voters, was released in May 2017.

“Defendants were wildly reckless in the statements they made about our clients.  They should have known that the people they were accusing of felonies were, in fact, eligible voters,” said Andrew G. Celli, Jr. and Alanna Kaufman of the law firm of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP.  “Our clients have committed no crime.  Their names have been smeared and their personal contact information spread widely. This is a modern, covert, and insidious effort to intimidate voters.  It must be remedied.”

The lawsuit asserts that defendants’ conduct  “violates both the Voting Rights Act, see 52 U.S.C. § 10307, and the Ku Klux Klan Act, see 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3), because it intimidates constitutionally eligible voters, like Plaintiffs, into not exercising their right to vote.” (p. 5, LULAC of Richmond v. Public Interest Legal Foundation)

“Regardless of whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, the importance of protecting Americans’ right to vote free of intimidation should be something that all Americans can agree on,” said Cameron Kistler of Protect Democracy.  “Our democracy depends on it.”

The complaint in LULAC of Richmond v. Public Interest Legal Foundation can be found at  https://www.southerncoalition.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/LULAC-of-Richmond-v.-PILF.pdf

 

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The Southern Coalition for Social Justice is a non-partisan legal organization that partners with communities of color and economically disadvantaged communities in the south to defend and advance their political, social and economic rights.

 

Protect Democracy is a non-partisan organization dedicated to preventing our democracy from declining into a more authoritarian form of government.

 

Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP is a litigation boutique that focuses on civil rights, commercial, criminal, and ethics matters.

SCSJ supports call to remove Confederate monuments, memorials, and flags at the courthouses in North Carolina

The Southern Coalition for Social Justice has signed onto a resolution drafted by the North Carolina Commission on Racial and Ethnic Disparities in the Criminal Justice System that calls for the immediate removal of all Confederate monuments, memorials, flags, and other symbols and markers of racism and white supremacy, from all public spaces inside or outside of courthouses in the state.

The resolution recognizes that “visible and systemic markers of racism and white supremacy, including those commemorating the Confederacy, were erected outside courthouses and centers of government power specifically to reclaim those public spaces for the unjust causes the markers and symbols represent.”

While there is currently a state law prohibiting the removal of divisive symbols of racism and injustice, the resolution calls upon the North Carolina General Assembly to repeal the 2015 statute.

You can read the full resolution here:

 

NCCRED Resolution by Dustin on Scribd

Youth Justice Project’s Statement regarding DACA

Durham, N.C. — The Youth Justice Project released the following statement on Facebook earlier today in response to the Trump administration’s decision to phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program:

Here at Youth Justice Project, we value dignity, community, and diversity as some of our nation’s greatest strengths. However, yesterday’s decision to end DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) contradicts these values. DACA was put in place to help undocumented immigrant youth who were brought to this country as children. It allowed them to work legally and made access to education easier. Its upheaval is a devastating and unfair blow to the 800,000 young people who have made a life here in the United States. Now, these young people are facing a world turned upside down.

However, the fight for justice is not over. You can urge your Congressional representatives to pass the DREAM Act and tell your local officials to protect immigrants and all young people. For more resources on how to take action, visit Dosomething.org’s DACA resource center.”

For more information on the Youth Justice Project, visit www.youthjusticenc.org.