2016 Election Lawsuit Tracker: The New Election Laws and the Suits Challenging Them

There are 15 states with new voting laws that have never before been used during a presidential election, according to a report by the Brennan Center for Justice. These laws include restrictions like voter ID requirements and limits on early voting. Many are making their way through the courts, which have already called a halt to two laws in the past month — one in North Carolina and one in North Dakota.

“All the sides were pushing for opinions over the summer so that nobody would run into the concern that it was all of a sudden too late to shift what the state had been planning to do,” said Jennifer Clark, counsel for the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program.

We’re tracking the new laws and the suits against them in the run-up to Election Day. We’ll keep this updated as decisions roll in.


Status: Litigation Pending. New voting law will be in place on Election Day.

While a federal judge declined to issue a preliminary injunction against Alabama’s photo-ID law in February, a case against the law will go forward, with a trial expected in 2017. Alabama election law also requires proof of citizenship, a statute upheld in late June (the D.C. Circuit court of appeals will hear arguments in September).

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Status: Litigation pending.

The Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law filed suit against Maricopa County on June 2, after the county cut down the number of polling places for the presidential primary by 70 percent. The reduction in polling place caused lines so long that some people waited up to five hours, and many people left without voting. The county had only one polling place for every 21,000 voters.

The suit asks for court supervision over all elections through the 2020 presidential primary, limits on waiting time at polls, and court approval over polling place maps.

Less than a week after the election, an Arizona election official apologized. “I apologize profusely — I can’t go back and undo it,” the official said.

The state also made it a felony to collect ballots for others and bring them to the polls, a law which will be in force for the first time for the 2016 election.

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Status: A voting law passed in 2009, but only now in force, will be in place on Election Day. Litigation pending.

The GOP-dominated legislature passed a law back in 2009 that required voters to show proof of citizenship when registering. But the state couldn’t implement it until received the go-ahead in January from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. The EAC is a federal government agency that was created by the Help America Vote Act in the wake of the 2000 Florida election fiasco. It develops election-administration guidelines and serves as the election administration clearinghouse. The League of Women Voters filedsuit a month later over Georgia’s proof-of-citizenship requirement, as well as similar ones in Alabama and Kansas, and lost. Another lawsuit is pending alleging that the stateillegally purged voters from the rolls.

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Status: New voting law will be in place on Election Day.

Indiana has long had a photo-ID law. In fact, the Supreme Court case that ultimately found voter-ID laws to be constitutional, Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, originated from a 2005 Indiana law. A 2013 add-on allows partisan election officers to ask for anyone’s proof of identification.

In 2015, a judge ruled in favor of an ACLU lawsuit challenging a law that made it a felony to take a photo of your own ballot.

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Status: Litigation pending.

On the same day as rulings in Wisconsin and North Carolina, a state district judge in Kansas allowed voters to have their primaries ballots counted even without proof of citizenship to have their ballots counted in the state’s primary election. An order not to count the ballots had been issued by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. It was part of an effort, started in 2013, to set up a two-tiered voting system, which prohibits voters who don’t show proof of citizenship (which is not required by federal voting law) from voting in state-level elections (Another case based on the two-tiered system is winding its way through appeals. The judge intends to rule again in September, before the November election.

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Status: Voting law overturned

A federal judge struck down Michigan’s ban on straight-ticket voting in July, ruling that it would unfairly burden black voters. In straight-ticket voting, a voter can select all candidates from the same party with one stroke. African-American voters are more likely to vote Democrat, and lawyers opposing the ban found that 70 percent of ballots in Detroit and Flint – cities with high percentages of African Americans – were cast with straight-ticket voting.

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Status: New voting law will be in place on Election Day.

Mississippi’s photo-ID law was implemented in the 2014 midterm election and will get its first presidential test come November. Unlike most other states, Mississippi managed to avoid a lawsuit over its ID law. But, the Brennan Center’s Jennifer Clark warned, presidential elections are more of a test than even federal midterm elections: “A lot of people only show up to vote for presidential elections, and the electorate for a presidential election is more diverse in almost every way.”

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Status: New voting law will be in place on Election Day.

In 2013, Nebraska shortened early voting from a 35-day minimum to a 30-day maximum. The new system has never been tested during a presidential election.

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New Hampshire

Status: New voting law will be in place on Election Day, with a fail-safe.

New Hampshire’s photo-ID law was first passed in 2012, when a Republican-controlled legislature overrode a veto by a Democratic governor. In September 2015, the state added a safety net for people without ID: They’ll have their picture taken at the polls and get cards sent to their home address to confirm their identities. In July 2015, Gov. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat, vetoed a bill that would have required a 30-day residency to vote.

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North Carolina

Status: Voting law overturned. State intends to appeal.

An appeals court struck down North Carolina’s voting restrictions — which were introduced the day after the Supreme Court decision in 2013 that limited enforcement of federal Voting Rights Act. The North Carolina law added a strict photo-ID requirement, shaved a week off of early voting, and cut same-day registration, preregistration and out-of-precinct voting. The Circuit Court found that the law’s provisions “target African Americans with almost surgical precision.” The state legislature, the ruling said, had specifically requested data on which racial groups benefited from certain voting mechanisms. The legislature then created laws which targeted the tactics most likely to make it easier for African-Americans to vote. In a rare move, the appeals court reversed the fact-finding of the district court, writing that it “fundamentally erred”.

“We can only conclude that the North Carolina General Assembly enacted the challenged provisions of the law with discriminatory intent,” the circuit court found.

While the state’s attorney general, Democrat Roy Cooper, said his office would not appeal the ruling, North Carolina’s Republican governor, Pat McCrory, says he’ll appeal and suggested that Cooper should stop taking his salary until he does. Cooper and McCrory are running against each other for governor.

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North Dakota