Attorney General James Continues Fight To Protect Free And Fair Elections For Voters

December 6, 2021

New York Attorney General Letitia James today continued her fight to ensure fair access to elections for all eligible voters.

Leading a coalition of 17 attorneys general from around the nation in filing amicus briefs in three cases having to do with voting rights. The briefs were filed in Florida Rising Together v. LeeFlorida State Conference of Branches and Youth Units of the NAACP, Common Cause, and Disability Rights Florida v. Lee; and League of Women Voters of Florida v. Lee. The plaintiffs in these cases challenge Florida’s restrictive voting law, SB 90. They explain that the law — created after the 2020 election — erects unconstitutional voting restrictions, especially against mail-in ballots. They further explain that Florida’s law, like others of its kind, also has a discriminatory impact on minority voters. In today’s brief, Attorney General James and the coalition support the plaintiffs’ arguments that SB 90 creates barriers to voting in violation of the Voting Rights Act and the right to vote as protected by the U.S. Constitution in the First, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments.

“Voting in free and fair elections is a fundamental civil right, and must be protected at all costs,” said Attorney General James.“Florida’s new law, and others like it, only seek to offset recent election losses. Fraud has nothing to do with it. This is about discriminating against minority communities and stopping them from casting their ballots, which is why our coalition will continue to challenge these unconstitutional and illegal efforts to undermine the will of the people.”

Florida’s 2020 election saw high voter turnout, with a surge of participation by a young and diverse electorate. In the wake of the election, however, Florida passed SB 90.

Among other things, the law severely reduces access to vote-by-mail drop boxes, makes it difficult for voters to get assistance returning their mail-in ballots, and requires that voters more frequently re-request to vote by mail.

Following the law’s passage, the three lawsuits were filed.

In the brief –– filed in all three cases in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida –– the coalition supports the plaintiffs, who argue that SB 90 has discriminatory impacts on minority voters in Florida, that it was passed with the intent to discriminate, and that the law burdens the fundamental right to vote.

The brief also asserts that these claims deserve a full hearing at trial and that summary judgment — which the defendants are asking for — is not warranted. The coalition additionally argues that it is possible to pursue free and fair elections while expanding voter opportunity in ways that do not risk malfeasance, maladministration, or fraud.

For example, New York and the District of Columbia have done just that with recent expansions to the right to vote.

This brief is a continuation of efforts by Attorney General James to challenge restrictive voting laws and protect voters’ rights across the nation. Attorney General James has successfully led battles against unfair voting restrictions and illegal efforts to deter voting in New York and across the country, ranging from filing lawsuits against the Trump Administration’s for undermining the U.S. Postal service in an effort to block mail-in voting in the 2020 election, to filing an amicus brief in a lawsuit brought forward against a similar discriminatory Georgia law, to stopping conspiracy theorists from suppressing Black New Yorkers’ right to vote, and more.

Additionally, in May 2021, Attorney General James filed a lawsuit against the Rensselaer County Board of Elections (BOE) and its commissioners for failing to provide voters in Rensselaer County with adequate and equitable access to early voting poll sites, as required by New York’s Early Voting law. In June, a judge ruled in favor of Attorney General James’ request for an injunction against the Rensselaer County Board of Elections, and, in August, the court ruled in favor of Attorney General James’ lawsuit and ordered the BOE to select new early voting poll sites.

Joining Attorney General James in filing this brief are the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

This amicus brief was prepared by Assistant Solicitor General Jennifer L. Clark, Assistant Deputy Solicitor General Judy Vale, Deputy Solicitor General Steven Wu, and Solicitor General Barbara D. Underwood –– all of the Division for Appeals and Opinions.

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