COVID-Related Election Litigation Tracker

Case Details

This database consolidates and tracks litigation concerning the effect of the pandemic on election law. The purpose of this tool is to provide an interactive list of relevant cases that can be searched by issue, court, status, and jurisdiction.

Case Details

 

Clark v. Edwards (consolidated with Power Coalition for Equity and Justice v. Edwards)

Closed

Clark v. Edwards (consolidated with Power Coalition for Equity and Justice v. Edwards), No. 3:20-cv-00308 (M.D. La.)

  Case Summary Power Coalition for Equity and Justice ("PCEJ") and Louisiana NAACP file suit against the Governor and Secretary of State of Louisiana, on behalf of four individuals in Louisiana, claiming that the State's Emergency Plan for voting in the various 2020 elections offers insufficient protections to voters in light of COVID-19, and thus violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments' Right to Vote. The first claim is that the limited list of excuses to qualify for an absentee ballot are overly narrow and will force many to unsafely vote in person or not at all. Second, the requirement that absentee ballots be signed by a witness is places an unacceptable burden on those that live alone or do not have access to a witness. Third, the requirement that voters who cannot sign for themselves obtain a witness signature is similarly unacceptable. Fourth, the early voting window has not been extended to the November and December elections, and a period of only seven days will be too short to allow for sufficiently many people to vote to prevent overcrowding at the in-person polls and to allow for social-distancing.
Filed 05/19/2020
State Louisiana
Type of Court Federal
Circuit Fifth Circuit
Status Closed
Last Updated 09/01/2020
Issue Tag(s) Vote-by-Mail (Witness and/or Notary Requirement, Failure to Allow Fear of COVID to Qualify as “Excuse”, Failure to Allow No-Excuse Vote by Mail, Notice/Cure for Mismatches Missing Signature or Mistakes, Failure to Include ID/Documentation)
In-Person Voting COVID Concern (Early Voting Availability/Dates)
Complaint(s) 05/19/2020: Complaint filed.
06/17/2020: Complaint, Amended Complaint filed.
Dispositive Ruling(s) 06/22/2020: Order/Ruling, Ruling granting MTD. Court begins by noting that Purcell urges caution to courts looking to interfere on the eve of an election. Plaintiffs on one hand allege that their injury stems from being forced to comply with unfair election rules, not from risk of the virus, and then also claim that these elections rules are unfair because they force a choice between voting and exposure to the virus. The Court thinks this is a hard needle to thread. The Court looks closely at standing, emphasizing that separation of powers dictates that the manner of elections be determined by the legislature. The Court finds that there is no actual injury, and any alleged injury would only result if an unlikely chain of events were to occur, and so finds that there is no standing. The witness signature risk is avoidable through reasonable precautions; the early-voting claim pertaining to the November and December elections is premature; the excuse of elder-care does in fact merit an absentee ballot, and confusion as to whether or not it does is not enough to constitute an injury; and a speculative concern that an application for a ballot on the basis of asthma, without having applied, is not an injury, and in fact the Court believes Ms. Pogue would qualify on the basis of chronic lung disease, or she could even get a note from a health care provider. Further, complaints about the November and December election are not yet ripe, because we do not yet know what procedures will govern those elections. Similarly speculative are claims that voting would endanger claimants sick family, because between use of safety measures, and in-place protections at polls, there are a long list of unlikely events that would have to take place for claimant to catch the virus while voting and then pass it to her family. The injuries alleged are actually based in fear of the virus--which is not itself an injury. As for institutional plaintiffs, they must also allege an injury. Organizations that work to facilitate voting access are not harmed by pursuing the advocacy they already pursue, and even if they are, then the harm is cased by the virus, not the defendants.
06/30/2020: Order/Ruling, Final Judgment
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