Issues

Judge Denies Efforts to Block Citizenship Verification of New Voters in Three States

Liberal groups sought to stop Kansas, Georgia, and Alabama from verifying citizenship status of newly registered voters

Voting booths / AP

A federal judge on Wednesday denied the request of a number of liberal groups who wanted to block a rule allowing states to verify the citizenship status of newly registered voters.

The lawsuit, which was brought forth by the League of Woman Voters and a number of other liberal groups, sought a preliminary injunction to prevent three states from using a rule issued in January by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC). The rule allows the states to use citizenship verification instructions in the federally mandated voter registration forms.

Brian Newby, the executive director of the EAC, granted requests from Kansas, Georgia, and Alabama on Jan. 29 after they had asked to modify the instructions contained on the National Voter Mail Registration Form—or "Federal Form"—that would make individuals registering to vote in those three states provide proof of citizenship in accordance with their respective laws and regulations.

United States District Judge Richard J. Leon denied the requests from the liberal groups for the time being, calling the preliminary injunction a "thinly veiled request for the relief normally accorded in a final judgment" and that the "demands are dramatized all the more by the fact that the United State Department of Justice has somehow decided to consent to such remarkable relief."

The Department of Justice refused to defend the actions of EAC, which is an independent federal agency. The Public Interest Legal Foundation, an Indiana-based election integrity group, stepped in to defend the states.

J. Christian Adams, the group’s president, said DOJ’s refusal to defend the rule is another case of the Justice Department’s disregard for the integrity of voter rolls under the Obama administration.

"This case is yet another example of the clear hostility of the Obama Justice Department towards ensuring voter integrity," said Adams. "Non-citizens have participated in American elections and verifying citizenship is the first step to stopping aliens from influencing who is in power."

The League of Woman Voters did not immediately return a request for comment on the decision.

Many of the lawyers involved in the initial lawsuit have contributed to Hillary Clinton, including Michael Keats, a lawyer from the New York-based Stroock Stroock and Lavan LLP. Keats has contributed $2,000 to Clinton’s campaign this election cycle. At least two others involved with the lawsuit are also Clinton donors.

This is the second blow to litigation efforts brought forth by liberal interests in recent months.

A separate lawsuit filed on behalf of the Democratic Party of Virginia seeking to end the state’s voter identification law was dismissed in May.

This lawsuit was funded by liberal billionaire George Soros and was brought forth by Marc Elias, Clinton’s top campaign lawyer who is a partner at the D.C.-based law firm Perkins Coie.

Elias brought the suit forward in his capacity of an attorney at Perkins Coie and separate of the campaign. However, Clinton’s campaign supported the effort.