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Voting Rights Cases

November 17, 2020

In courts across the country, we have seen repeated attempts to delegitimatize our democracy by trying to disenfranchise Black voters. Throughout this election cycle, NAACP branches and units nationwide have been working to strengthen our collective voice in our democratic process – from registering voters to educating them about different voting methods to fighting voter suppression efforts through litigation and other strategies. Below are a list of cases where the NAACP got involved in order to represent the interests of Black voters, prevent their disenfranchisement, and ensure their ballots are counted and their voices are heard.

  • NAACP sued the U.S. Postal Service to restore prompt and reliable mail delivery, and to ensure that mail-in ballots are accorded priority status. On August 20, 2020, the NAACP sued USPS in the United States District Court of Washington D.C., alleging that Louis DeJoy, the Postmaster General, impeded the timely distribution of mail, implemented crippling policies on postal workers, and sabotaged the USPS in a blatant attempt to disenfranchise voters of color, who are already more harshly impacted by the coronavirus and require alternative methods to in-person voting to protect their health and safety. The lawsuit claimed that USPS failed to take the required steps before implementing operational changes, including submitting them to the Postal Regulatory Commission, an oversight body. By ignoring this required process for changes, the American public was denied a reasonable opportunity to submit comments and provide input on the proposals. In response to the NAACP lawsuit, USPS has been subject to aggressive oversight in court of its handling of election mail.

On October 27, 2020, D.C. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan ordered the Post Office to provide daily updates to the court on mail delivery data, lawyers from the administration will appear daily before the judge, and sweeps and other measures have been put in place to ensure ballots get to election officials by the state deadlines. Thereafter Judge Sullivan issued several additional orders, including orders that: 1) express network must be used for election mail; 2) all mail ballots be postmarked and processed for delivery no later than the morning after they are mailed; 3) USPS must immediately perform a sweep of certain USPS facilities “to ensure that no ballots have been held up and that any identified ballots are immediately sent out for delivery” and report back to the court by 4:30 p.m. the same day;  4) instructed every plant manager in Texas to perform an immediate sweep of the facility to identify any ballots postmarked by Election Day and have such ballots sent out for delivery by 5:00 p.m. and report back to the court by 1pm on November 5; and 5) required that “all USPS facilities that serve a state with an extended ballot receipt deadline shall, until that deadline passes perform a morning ballot sweep…and a mid-to-late afternoon ballot sweep that is timed to ensure that any identified local ballots can be delivered that day.” [NAACP v. USPS]

  • The NAACP in Michigan intervened in a lawsuit filed by the Trump campaign that would disenfranchise Black voters. The Trump campaign filed a lawsuit in federal court to stop Michigan from certifying the election results of the 2020 general election. The lawsuit alleges numerous irregularities in Wayne County, and attempts to throw out the election results from Wayne County.   The NAACP-Michigan State Conference moved to intervene as a defendant on November 13, 2020 because it believes it has a right to prevent the disenfranchisement of its members. On November 17, 2020, the court granted the NAACP’s motion to intervene. On November 18, 2020, the NAACP-Michigan State Conference, in their role as a defendant-intervenor, asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit. The NAACP argued that it should be dismissed because 1) the campaign could have asserted these claims before Election Day or during the counting of the ballots, preventing the disenfranchisement of hundreds of thousands of voters in Wayne County and 2) the campaign does not provide any concrete evidence of fraud or illegal activities but instead relies on vague anecdotes. The NAACP recognizes that if the campaign’s relief was granted, Michigan would choose its presidential electors without counting the votes of nearly half of its Black citizens, and argues that this would be a constitutional violation. [Trump for President v. Benson]
  • The NAACP in Michigan moved to intervene in a lawsuit that would disenfranchise Black voters. Two Michigan voters filed a lawsuit in federal court to stop the final certification of election results until there is an independent audit to investigate all claims of voter fraud in Wayne County and to certify the legality of all absentee ballots cast. On November 18, 2020, the NAACP-Michigan State Conference moved to intervene in order to protect one of its core missions of ensuring its members are given a full and equal opportunity to exercise their fundamental right to vote. On November 18, 2020, the plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed the lawsuit. [Johnson v Benson]
  • The NAACP in Michigan moved to intervene in a lawsuit that would disenfranchise Black voters in three counties. A group of individuals filed a lawsuit in federal court to exclude presidential-election results from three counties – Wayne, Washtenaw, and Ingham – which would result in more than one million voters being disenfranchised. They allege illegal votes were cast in those counties, diluting the vote counts. The NAACP-Michigan State Conference moved to intervene as a defendant on November 14, 2020 because it believes it has a right to prevent the disenfranchisement of its members. On November 16, 2020, the plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed the lawsuit. [Bally v. Whitmer]
  • The NAACP in Pennsylvania intervened in a lawsuit filed by the Trump campaign that would disenfranchise Black voters. The Trump campaign filed a lawsuit in federal court to stop Pennsylvania from certifying the results of the 2020 General Election. If they are unsuccessful in that claim, they are asking the court to stop the counting of millions of mail-in and absentee ballots, which would disenfranchise millions of voters.  The NAACP-Pennsylvania State Conference is one of several civil rights organizations that asked on November 10, 2020 for the court to allow them to intervene as a defendant in the lawsuit.  They believe they have a right to do so because they have an interest in protecting their members by ensuring that they are given a “full and equal opportunity to exercise their fundamental right to vote” – and because that is one of the core missions of the organization’s work. On November 12, 2020, the court granted the NAACP’s motion to intervene. On November 15, 2020, the Trump campaign amended its lawsuit to a more narrow claim that Democratic-heavy counties violated the law by allowing mail-in ballots to be cured if they were going to be disqualified for a technicality while Republican-heavy counties did not provide such notice. [Donald J. Trump for President v. Boockvar]
  • The NAACP in Pennsylvania filed a friend of the court brief to ensure that all valid mail-in and absentee ballots in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania are counted.   The Trump campaign sued to try to use a technicality to prevent voters from exercising their constitutional right to vote in a safe and secure manner.  The campaign is arguing that ballots should be discarded if they do not include the voters’ address on the declaration.  Pennsylvania’s election law does not include this requirement and the Montgomery Board of Elections has already ruled that it is not required.  The Trump campaign is attempting to disenfranchise 600 voters.  On November 13, 2020, a state judge rejected the lawsuit. [Trump for President v. Montgomery County Board of Elections]
  • The NAACP filed a friend of the court brief to ensure that Pennsylvanians who made an honest mistake in casting their absentee ballot have a right to be notified so they can have their votes counted and their voices heard. On November 5, 2020, the NAACP joined an amicus brief to protect the right of Pennsylvania voters to fix their ballot, by casting a provisional ballot, if they made an honest mistake in casting their absentee ballot. Pennsylvania’s election law specifically allows any voter who requested an absentee or mail-in ballot, but whose ballot has not been voted, to cast a provisional ballot.  That means that voters have a right to be notified if their ballot has been rejected due to technical errors so that they can make sure that their vote is counted.  Preventing voters from casting a provisional ballot if they are notified of, or realize on their own, that a mistake was made in casting their absentee ballot, would disenfranchise voters who have a legal right to vote. On November 6, 2020, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania ordered that all provisional ballots cast on Election Day by voters who also returned a mail-in ballot by Election Day must be segregated from other provisional ballots. These voters may have voted provisionally due to learning of an error on their mail-in ballot that caused it to be rejected. After the provisional ballots are segregated, the Court ordered that it must be determined whether they are valid and can be counted under Pennsylvania Election Code. [Hamm v. Boockvar]
  • The NAACP in Pennsylvania helped defeat the Trump campaign’s efforts to make it harder for voters to vote by mail. The Trump campaign attempted to remove ballot drop boxes in the state, require signature matching for mailed ballots, remove a county residency requirement for poll watchers, and allow campaign poll watchers at drop boxes. A Trump-appointed judge dismissed the claims finding that there was no proof that Pennsylvania’s measures would lead to election fraud. [Trump for President v. Boockvar]
  • The NAACP in Georgia moved to intervene in a lawsuit that would disenfranchise Black voters. A lawsuit was filed by an individual in federal court to challenge the inclusion of absentee ballots in the 2020 general election results. On November 18, 2020, the NAACP-Georgia State Conference moved to intervene in order to protect one of its core missions of ensuring its members are given a full and equal opportunity to exercise their fundamental right to vote. On November 19, 2020, a request for a temporary restraining order to halt certification was denied. [Lin Wood v Raffensperger]
  • The NAACP in Georgia moved to intervene in a lawsuit that would disenfranchise Black voters in eight counties. A group of voters filed a lawsuit in federal court to stop Georgia officials from certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election unless the results from eight counties are excluded. The more than 1.4 million votes cast in those counties account for more than half of the votes in the state and the lawsuit claims that there was fraud only in the presidential election. The NAACP-Georgia State Conference moved to intervene as a defendant on November 14, 2020 because it believes it has a right to prevent the disenfranchisement of its 10,000 members. On November 16, 2020, the plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed the lawsuit. [Brooks v Mahoney]
  • The NAACP in Georgia helped prevent the purge of more than 14,000 voters just before the election. Republican operatives sought to challenge the validity of over 14,000 voters’ registrations in Fulton County, Georgia. The operatives filed a mandamus action to compel the Fulton Board of Elections to hold a hearing on the contested registrations. The NAACP moved to intervene to defend the registrations, and the court dismissed the mandamus petition. Although the court denied the NAACP’s motion to intervene, it relied heavily on the NAACP’s briefing in dismissing the petitioner’s case. [Schmitz v. Fulton County Board of Registration and Elections]
  • The NAACP in Wisconsin moved to intervene in a lawsuit that would disenfranchise Black voters in three counties. Four voters filed a lawsuit in federal court to stop Wisconsin officials from certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election unless the results from three counties – Milwaukee, Dane and Menominee – are excluded. The NAACP-Wisconsin State Conference moved to intervene as a defendant on November 14, 2020 because it believes it has a right to prevent the disenfranchisement of its 4,000 members. On November 16, 2020, the plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed the lawsuit. [Langenhorst v. Pecore]
  • The NAACP in Texas helped protect Harris County’s curbside voting practices. In Texas, Republican candidates and activists attempted to toss out nearly 127,000 ballots cast by drive-through voting in Harris County. A federal judge rejected the case on the grounds that the plaintiffs did not show they would be harmed if the ballots were counted. If those votes were rejected, it would have disenfranchised approximately 10% of all in-person ballots cast during early voting in Harris County. [Hotze v. Hollins]
  • The NAACP in Texas sued to make polling places safer. In Texas, a court challenge was brought to the exemption from the state’s mask mandate for polling places – including for poll workers. The exclusion was challenged as discriminatory against Black and Latino voters who are more likely to be harmed by the coronavirus. The challenge was defeated by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, overruling a lower court judge. [Mi Familia Vota; Texas State Conference of the NAACP; Guadulpe Torres v. Abbott]
  • The NAACP in Alabama argued that curbside voting should be allowed to keep voters safe during the coronavirus pandemic. While the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals held that counties could offer curbside voting if they choose, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it was not allowed. While Alabama law doesn’t provide for the practice, it doesn’t prohibit it either. [People First v. Merrill]

About NAACP

Founded in 1909 in response to the ongoing violence against Black people around the country, the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) is the largest and most pre-eminent civil rights organization in the nation. We have over 2,200 units and branches across the nation, along with well over 2M activists. Our mission is to secure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights to eliminate race-based discrimination and ensure the health and well-being of all persons. The NAACP is a c4 organization (contributions are not tax-deductible), and we have a partner c3 organization known as NAACP Empowerment Programs (contributions are fully tax-deductible as allowed by the IRS). NOTE: The Legal Defense Fund – also referred to as the NAACP-LDF was founded in 1940 as a part of the NAACP, but separated in 1957 to become a completely separate entity. It is recognized as the nation’s first civil and human rights law organization and shares our commitment to equal rights.