Dr. Kareem Crayton Named Permanent Executive Director of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice

DURHAM, N.C. – The Board of Directors for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice (SCSJ) has named Kareem Crayton, J.D., Ph.D. to serve as the organization’s permanent executive director.  Dr. Crayton has served as the organization’s interim director since January 2018.

 

“We are proud to name Dr. Kareem Crayton as the Executive Director of our organization,” said Ryan Roberson, Chair of SCSJ’s Board of Directors. “It is abundantly clear to the Board that Dr. Crayton is the right person to continue leading SCSJ forward.”

 

The announcement comes less than a week before the organization takes its second case in two years to the U.S. Supreme Court.  Next week’s case, Rucho v. League of Women Voters of North Carolina, is a partisan gerrymandering challenge to North Carolina’s congressional redistricting plan and could establish a national standard on how much partisanship in the redistricting process is too much.

 

“While I originally assumed the role of an interim leader to aid its transition, I am convinced that this pivotal moment in time in America makes the most sophisticated and mission-oriented work of civil rights advocates more crucial than ever,” said Dr. Kareem Crayton.  “SCSJ’s work remains vital to protect voting rights and to advocate for key reforms in the criminal justice and youth justice arenas as well. Our distinct brand of work as a community-centered organization has impact not only in the South but across the country.  I am therefore proud to continue leading this talented and creative team as it defines a story that is true to SCSJ’s original vision while drafting a new chapter in its second decade of service.”

 

Dr. Crayton is a respected scholar, expert, and consultant whose work centers on the intersection of law, politics, and race. He is the only academic in the United States in law and political science whose main work explores the relationship between race and politics in representative institutions.  A native of Montgomery, Alabama, Dr. Crayton is a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard College and holds a Ph.D. in Political Science as well as a law degree from Stanford University.  Aside from managing a consulting firm that has engaged in election projects in a dozen states, Dr. Crayton has served on several university faculties, most recently Vanderbilt University Law School.

 

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SCSJ’s Allison Riggs Chosen as Oralist in North Carolina’s Partisan Gerrymandering Case

Case marks the second argument for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice at the U.S. Supreme Court

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Plaintiffs in Rucho v. League of Women Voters of North Carolina (LWVNC) will be represented by Allison Riggs, senior voting rights attorney at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, when the case is argued before the U.S. Supreme Court on March 26. This will be Ms. Riggs’ second oral argument before the Court.  She previously argued Abbott v. Perez in April 2018, a racial gerrymandering case out of Texas.

The U.S. Supreme Court granted a motion for divided argument earlier today. Plaintiffs in Rucho v. Common Cause, another partisan gerrymandering challenge from North Carolina that was combined with the LWVNC case, will be represented by another attorney.

More biographical information about Ms. Riggs is included below.

 

The following statements were issued following the announcement of Ms. Riggs being selected as the oralist in the case:

“The voters of North Carolina will be exceedingly well served by one of the brightest and most skilled advocates that we have in the civil rights bar.  Allison is fully prepared to make the best case for fair districts on behalf of our clients to the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Kareem Crayton, Executive Director of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice.  “This case highlights many issues, but the most significant of them is the right of American voters to control their government.  Allison is an ideal choice to explain why the erosion of the ability of people to be heard is an urgent concern this Court must address.”

 

“We are proud to be representing the League of Women Voters plaintiffs in the Supreme Court case challenging the egregious North Carolina congressional gerrymander.  Working with our co-counsel, we are working to make the best case we can about the need to rein in rampant partisan gerrymandering,” said Paul Smith, vice president of Campaign Legal Center and counsel of record in the case. “Co-counsel Allison Riggs, as a North Carolinian herself, truly understands the impact the state legislature’s egregious gerrymander has had on our democracy and will surely make a compelling oral argument to the Supreme Court.”

 

“The League of Women Voters of North Carolina is delighted to be working with Allison Riggs, who is an expert in voting rights litigation in North Carolina,” said Janet Hoy, co-president of the League of Women Voters of North Carolina.  “Given Allison’s work in redistricting – and voting rights cases overall- we believe she is uniquely positioned to effectively and persuasively argue this case at the U.S. Supreme Court.  Aside from its potential national impact, this case can help restore integrity to the voting process in North Carolina and ensure that North Carolinians’ votes will matter.”

 

 

The Southern Coalition for Social Justice (SCSJ), Campaign Legal Center (CLC), and University of Chicago Professor Nicholas Stephanopoulos represent the League of Women Voters of North Carolina and 12 individual North Carolina plaintiffs in the case, Rucho v. League of Women Voters of North Carolina. The Supreme Court will simultaneously hear a companion case, Rucho v. Common Cause.

 

 

Biographical information about Allison Riggs:

 

Allison Riggs leads the voting rights program at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice based in Durham, NC, an organization she joined in 2009.  Her voting rights work has been focused on fighting for fair redistricting plans, fighting against voter suppression, and advocating for electoral reforms that would expand access to voting.  She has litigated redistricting cases on behalf of State NAACP Conferences in Texas, Florida, Virginia, and North Carolina.

In 2016, she successfully challenged North Carolina’s Monster Voter Suppression Law, which the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals determined “target[ed] African-American voters with almost surgical precision.”  In 2018, she argued Abbott v. Perez, a Texas redistricting case in the United States Supreme Court.

Allison works closely with grassroots organizations and communities of color as they seek to advance their political and civil rights.  She received her undergraduate, Master’s Degree, and J.D. from the University of Florida.

Voters Challenge to State Voter ID Moves Forward

Wake County Superior Court Judge Sends Case to Three-Judge Panel

 

RALEIGH, N.C. – On Wednesday, Wake County Superior Judge Vince Rozier, Jr. issued an order that allows a state constitutional challenge to North Carolina’s voter ID law to move forward in front of a three-judge panel. Chief Justice Beasley will appoint the three members of the panel. The case was heard by Judge Rozier on March 4.  Plaintiffs in the case brought the challenge immediately after the voter ID enabling legislation went into effect when the Legislature overrode Gov. Cooper’s veto.

 

“We appreciate that the court recognized that the voters who brought their case deserve to have a full hearing in front of a three-judge panel,” said Allison Riggs, Senior Voting Rights Attorney for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. “We look forward to representing plaintiffs as they continue to challenge this discriminatory and unconstitutional law.”

 

All six of the claims brought forth by the plaintiffs will now proceed to the three-judge panel.  One part of a claim brought by plaintiffs was dismissed by the judge because none of the plaintiffs in the case who were under the age of sixty-five possessed an acceptable state-issued ID that was more than one year expired.

 

The Southern Coalition for Social Justice is representing plaintiffs in the case, along with pro-bono counsel from the New York law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison.  The Southern Coalition for Social Justice also represented plaintiffs who successfully challenged the state’s 2013 monster voter suppression law that was ultimately struck down by the U.S Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

 

More information about this case and subsequent filings will be available at https://www.southerncoalition.org/voterid/

 

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North Carolina’s Partisan Gerrymandering Plaintiffs File Final Brief with U.S. Supreme Court Ahead of Oral Arguments Later This Month

 

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Plaintiffs in Rucho v. League of Women Voters of North Carolina filed their final brief with the U.S. Supreme Court today, just more than three weeks before the Court is slated to hear oral arguments in the partisan gerrymandering cases out of North Carolina and Maryland on March 26.  Lower court victories for the plaintiffs mark the first time an entire state’s congressional plan has been struck down for being an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander.

 

The Southern Coalition for Social Justice (SCSJ), Campaign Legal Center (CLC), and University of Chicago Professor Nicholas Stephanopoulos represent the League of Women Voters of North Carolina and 12 individual North Carolina plaintiffs in the case, Rucho v. League of Women Voters of North Carolina. The Supreme Court will simultaneously hear a companion case, Rucho v. Common Cause.

 

The following statements were issued after today’s filing was made:

 

“This case cries out for intervention by the U.S. Supreme Court to rein in out-of-control partisan manipulation of the redistricting process,” said Allison Riggs, senior voting rights attorney for SCSJ.  “You’d be hard-pressed to find a more blatant example of voters being denied their constitutional rights to equal protection under the law and to free speech than the North Carolina’s 2016 congressional redistricting plan.  When legislators brag about their attempts to entrench themselves in political power and enact maps designed to guarantee election winners before a single vote is cast, courts are the only hope for a remedy.  These legislative actions are inconsistent with the basic principles of representative democracy that we hold so dear.”

 

“Citizens in all 50 states deserve to be able to choose their representatives – and not the other way around. This is why we need a national solution, and why we look forward to bringing the fight for fair maps to the U.S. Supreme Court this month,” said Paul Smith, vice president of CLC. “It is time for the U.S. Supreme Court to act. They have a golden opportunity to enforce the Constitution in a manner that will rein in partisan gerrymandering – done by both parties – and create ground rules that safeguard the fundamental right of all Americans to have their vote count.”

 

“The League of Women Voters of NC is proud to be a plaintiff in this case that so clearly lays out the need for redistricting reform,” said Janet Hoy, co-president of the League of Women Voters of North Carolina.  “We look forward to the time when NC will have constitutional districts and North Carolinians’ votes will count in  every election.”

 

 

The plaintiff’s briefs were filed with the U.S. Supreme Court and should soon appear on the case’s docket page located at https://www.supremecourt.gov/search.aspx?filename=/docket/docketfiles/html/public/18-422.html

 

The brief can also be found at https://campaignlegal.org/document/rucho-v-league-women-voters-north-carolina-us-supreme-court-brief-appellees

 

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Voters Fight Back Against Fraud Accusations

 

Defamation lawsuit filed in Greensboro, N.C., by voters wrongfully accused of committing voter fraud

GREENSBORO, N.C. – Four voters in Guilford County, N.C., have filed a defamation lawsuit against the individual who accused them of voting without being eligible to do so. In the 2016 general election, at least 85 people across North Carolina were accused of voting in multiple states or being ineligible to vote because of a felony conviction. Not a single one of the accusations was found to be valid.

Recent unsupported claims by President Trump have moved the issue of illegal voting into the national spotlight. At the national level, the rhetoric around this issue has been broad and vague. In contrast, North Carolina voters were called out by name and were publicly accused of committing a crime.

“Today voters are fighting back,” said Allison Riggs, Senior Voting Rights Attorney at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. “We want to send the message loud and clear that it is wrong to intimidate voters by accusing them of committing a crime without having any evidence to support the claim.”

“This was personal,” said Karen Niehans, a 74-year-old resident of Jamestown, N.C. who was accused of voting in two states. “My democratic right to vote was challenged. It’s as if someone was saying that I was less than others, that my voice shouldn’t count. That’s just plain wrong to do to someone and I am not going to take it. I want to make sure that this doesn’t happen to anyone else.”

Karen and her husband Sam Niehans moved to North Carolina in August 2016 to be closer to family. They are eligible to vote and ultimately had their votes counted after the local board of elections found the challenges to both of their votes to be without merit.

Louis Bouvier of Greensboro, N.C. was also accused of voting in two states.  Unlike the Niehans, Bouvier has voted in North Carolina consistently since 1988.

“My son and I share a name. That’s likely why someone accused me of voting in two states,” Bouvier said. “But it’s a sorry state of affairs when someone can accuse you of a crime without properly vetting or researching the facts.”

Gabriel Thabet of Greensboro, N.C., was accused of not being allowed to vote due to a felony conviction from 19 years ago. However, North Carolinians with a felony record have their rights automatically restored after they have served their sentence and completed parole. His vote was ultimately counted.

“I have spent the last 19 years trying to forget the mistakes that I made as a kid,” Gabriel Thabet said. “I wish that I had never been accused of not being allowed to vote. Just as I had to learn from my childhood mistakes, I cannot change the past but I can help shape the future. I am standing up to make sure other people are not intimidated the way I was.”

In 2013, North Carolina passed a monster voter suppression law.  Although the law was struck down by the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, state legislators used similar baseless claims to cast doubt over our elections process to build support for passing the measure.  There are concerns that the unsupported challenges to voters in 2016 will be used for the same purpose.

“This case is about protecting the rights of every eligible voter to be able to cast their ballot without being intimidated or having to face baseless accusations,” Allison Riggs added.  “Voters are pushing back against vague and unfounded claims of voter fraud being used to drum up support for voter suppression laws. Today is the day that voters fight back.”

A pdf of the lawsuit can be found at http://bit.ly/VoterDefamation

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Legislative Leaders Decline to Appeal Ruling of Unconstitutional Redistricting in Wake County State House Districts

RALEIGH, N.C. – On February 15, 2019, legislative defendants filed a notice withdrawing their appeal of a Superior Court ruling that found the 2017 redistricting of four Wake County House districts to be unconstitutional.  In November 2018, a three-judge panel found that the redistricting changes violated the North Carolina Constitution’s prohibition on mid-decade redistricting.  The court’s order requires that legislators return the district lines to their previous configuration during this long legislative session.

 

The Southern Coalition for Social Justice represents plaintiffs in the case which include the North Carolina NAACP, the League of Women Voters of North Carolina, Democracy North Carolina, and the North Carolina A. Philip Randolph Institute and four individual Wake County voters.

 

Allison Riggs, Senior Voting Rights Attorney for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, issued the following statement after legislative defendants announced their intention to drop their appeal November’s decision:

 

“We appreciate the defendants’ decision drop their appeal. The public is better served by correcting constitutional infirmities than by a prolonged legal defense of patently illegal maps. It is still deeply troubling that the last election of the decade is the first and only one in which Wake County voters will have fully constitutional State House districts.  Voters deserve districts that do not discriminate against them based on their race, are not manipulated for partisan purposes, and do not violate their state constitutional rights.  We will continue to advocate for fair and legal redistricting and we will litigate on behalf of voters where necessary to hold legislators accountable.”

U.S. Supreme Court Will Hear North Carolina and Maryland Partisan Gerrymandering Challenges

Justices have an opportunity this term to ensure fair maps nationwide by striking down Republican and Democratic redistricting plans

 

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court announced it will hear arguments in March 2019 in a challenge to North Carolina’s 2016 congressional map, which is one of the most egregious partisan gerrymanders in American history. It will also hear the Maryland challenge, in which Democrats discriminated against Republicans for their party affiliation in its 2011 maps, in March as well. Together, the cases have the potential to reshape future redistricting nationwide by limiting politicians’ ability to discriminate against voters who favor a minority party when those politicians draw electoral districts.

 

The Southern Coalition for Social Justice (SCSJ), Campaign Legal Center (CLC) and University of Chicago Professor Nicholas Stephanopoulos represent the League of Women Voters of North Carolina and 12 individual North Carolina plaintiffs in the case, League of Women Voters of North Carolina v. Rucho.  The Supreme Court will simultaneously hear a companion case, Common Cause v. Rucho, and it will hear the Maryland case, Benisek v. Lamone, this term.

 

“In North Carolina, Republican legislative leaders bragged that they were drawing a plan that advantaged Republicans to the maximum extent possible and discriminated against Democrats.  This kind of outrageous behavior most certainly crosses the line of constitutionality, and if the Supreme Court does not intervene, our democracy will pay the price,” said Allison Riggs, senior voting rights attorney for the SCSJ.

If the Supreme Court rules that the state’s maps are unconstitutional, this victory could curtail the undemocratic practice of partisan gerrymandering nationwide. Last term, CLC’s Paul Smith argued Gill v. Whitford, a challenge to Wisconsin’s gerrymandered Assembly maps. The Supreme Court sent both the North Carolina and Wisconsin cases back to district court with clear instructions.

 

“Voters nationwide are ready for a ruling from the Supreme Court that finally declares that they come first, not self-interested politicians,” said Paul Smith, vice president at CLC. “A supermajority of Americans – across ideological lines – want the Supreme Court to place limits on partisan gerrymandering. By striking down North Carolina and Maryland’s maps, the Supreme Court can send a message to the rest of the country that extreme partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional, no matter which party does it. If the Supreme Court fails to set limits on this undemocratic practice, we will see a festival of copycat gerrymandering in 2020 the likes of which the country has never seen before.”

“Partisan gerrymandering in North Carolina has become so pervasive that the outcome of many elections is decided before a single vote is cast,” said Janet Hoy, co-president of the League of Women Voters of North Carolina. “We have full hope that the U.S. Supreme Court will rein in this undemocratic practice so that voters can have the fair elections they deserve and know that their vote matters.”

“The congressional districts across North Carolina are nothing less than a successful attempt to rig the system,” said Aaron Sarver, a plaintiff from Asheville, North Carolina. “If members of Congress can tell their Republican colleagues in Raleigh exactly which voters they want to ‘represent’ then we’re getting pretty close to telling people it’s not worth bothering to show up to vote because the election was decided the day the maps were drawn.”

With the case now to be decided this term, North Carolina voters could have fair and legal maps drawn in time to be used in the 2020 elections.

Read more about the case: Rucho v. League of Women Voters of North Carolina.

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Anita Earls

Statement Regarding the Investiture of Anita Earls to the North Carolina Supreme Court

RALEIGH, N.C. – Anita Earls was sworn in today as the 100th Justice to sit on the North Carolina Supreme Court in an investiture ceremony this afternoon in Raleigh, North Carolina.  Earls, founding Executive Director of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, was elected to the seat in November.

Kareem Crayton, Interim Executive Director of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, issued the following statement upon Anita Earls’ investiture:

“There simply would not be an SCSJ without the vision, energy, and commitment of Anita Earls to build an organization that has become a key force in effort to make the South a more equal, just and inclusive place for its citizens.  Thousands of people across this region are better off today because of the work she has led.  We at SCSJ remain grateful to her for all she has done and will carry on this work as she commences a different chapter in her storied pursuit of justice.  On behalf of SCSJ’s Board, staff and community partners, we heartily congratulate Justice Earls on this remarkable achievement and wish her all the best as she assumes office to work on behalf of all the people of North Carolina.”

Before founding the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, Anita Earls served as a deputy assistant attorney general for civil rights at the U.S. Justice Department during the Clinton administration, a member of the North Carolina State Board of Elections, and professor of law at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke University, and the University of Maryland.

Anita Earls graduated from Williams College and earned her law degree from Yale.

 

 

 

 

 

New North Carolina Voter ID Law Immediately Challenged by Voters

Six voters challenging the state’s new photo ID requirements filed a lawsuit minutes after the regulations became law.  The complaint was filed in Wake County Superior Court along with a motion requesting a preliminary injunction, asking the court to halt the implementation of the law until the case can be heard in court.  State lawmakers overrode Governor Cooper’s veto of S 824, Implementation of Voter ID Constitutional Amendment, on the afternoon of Wednesday, December 19, 2018, as part of a lame-duck legislative session in which several members who lost re-election voted in favor of the override.

The full complaint and the motion for preliminary injunction can be at https://www.southerncoalition.org/voterid/

“The North Carolina Constitution provides numerous and inviolable protections for the fundamental right to vote of all its citizens,” Allison Riggs, senior voting rights attorney for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice.  “Just because the North Carolina Constitution now authorizes, with exceptions, the presentation of a picture ID when voting does not mean those other longstanding protections can be ignored or violated.”

According to the lawsuit, the new law violates multiple provisions of the North Carolina Constitution by:

  • purposefully discriminating against and disproportionately impacting African-American and American-Indian qualified voters, in violation of the Equal Protection Clause in Article 1, § 19;
  • unduly burdening the fundamental right to vote, in violation of the Equal Protection Clause in Article 1, § 19;
  • creating separate classes of voters, treated different with respect to their access to the fundamental right to vote, in violation of the Equal Protection Clause in Article 1, § 19;
  • imposing a cost on voting, in violation of the Free Elections Clause in Article I, § 10;
  • imposing a property requirement for voting, in violation of the Property Qualifications Clause in Article I, § 11; and,
  • impeding voters’ ability to engage in political expression and speech by casting a ballot, in violation of their Right of Assembly and Petition and Freedom of Speech as afforded by Article I, §§ 12 and 14.

“It is the legislature’s duty to balance competing demands in the State Constitution.  It has failed miserably in its exercise of balancing the new ID constitutional amendment, which explicitly allows for exceptions, with the numerous other state constitutional demands that have been interpreted to aggressively protect the right to vote, ” stated Allison Riggs.  “Any legislative scheme that requires voters to present ID when voting must have fail-safe measures to ensure that not one single eligible voter is disenfranchised.  Our State Constitution demands it.  This legislation does not do that.  It simply replicates a scheme that we know disenfranchised approximately 1,400 voters in the March 2016 primaries.”

The Southern Coalition for Social Justice is representing plaintiffs in the case, along with pro-bono counsel from the New York law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison.  The Southern Coalition for Social Justice also represented plaintiffs who successfully challenged the state’s 2013 monster voter suppression law and was ultimately struck down by the U.S Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

House Districts in Wake County Found Unconstitutional

Districts ordered to be redrawn in the next regular legislative session for use in 2020

 

 

RALEIGH – A three-judge state court panel today issued a unanimous ruling declaring four state House Districts in Wake County to be unconstitutional.  The panel agreed that the unnecessary redrawing of state House Districts 36, 37, 40, and 41 violated the North Carolina Constitution’s prohibition on mid-decade redistricting. The order instructs the legislature to remedy the unconstitutional districts in their next regular session for use in the 2020 general election.

 

The Southern Coalition for Social Justice represented plaintiffs in NC NAACP v. Lewis.  Plaintiffs included NC NAACP,  League of Women Voters of NC, Democracy NC, A. Philip Randolph Institute of NC, and four individual Wake County voters.

 

The three-judge panels’ order can be found at http://bit.ly/NAACPvLewisOrder

 

Allison Riggs, senior voting rights attorney for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice and attorney for the plaintiffs in the case, issued the following statement after the court’s ruling:

 

“Once again, a court has rebuked the North Carolina General Assembly, finding the legislature’s repeated acts of political gamesmanship in the redistricting process to be unconstitutional. For almost this entire decade, legislative leaders have done everything they can to avoid fair elections and accountability to the voters.  This decision brings us closer to the day that, for the first time this decade, the voice of the voters and not politicians’ illegal manipulations will determine the outcome of elections.”

 

 

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