Saturday, October 15, 2016

Federal Court Extends Voter Registration in Chatham County, GA

The Court heard oral argument from the parties on the morning of October 14, 2016. Plaintiffs' contend that the mandatory evacuations imposed due to hurricane Matthew prevented potential voters in Chatham County, Ga from registering for the upcoming
Election on November 8, 2016. The Court is satisfied that Plaintiffs have standing to
bring their claims.

The Chatham County Board of Elections office was closed from October 6th to October 12th, 2016. The Post Office closures and the suspension of mail service during this period also potentially prevented individuals from submitting their registration applications. Finally, many individuals were potentially unable to register, either in person or electronically, due to evacuation or recovery efforts. Given all these events, Plaintiffs argue that Defendants' failure to extend the Voter Registration deadline violates the 1st and 14th Amendments of the United States Constitution, and Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, 52 U.S.C. § 20507 (a) (1), which requires states to process any voter registration form received or postmarked at least 30 days prior to an election.

Defendants contend that extending the deadline to October 18th will present significant
administrative burdens on the Chatham County Board of Elections because early voting will have already begun on October 17th. Defendants maintain that requiring the acceptance of new registrations after October 17th fails to provide the Board with sufficient time to prepare and begin Rarly voting. Also, Defendants argue that the impacts of Hurricane Matthew did not preclude individuals from registering electronically.

The Court may grant injunctive relief only where the moving party established that:

(1) it has a substantial likelihood of success on the merits
(2) irreparable injury will be suffered unless the injunction issues
(3) the threatened injury to the movant outweighs whatever damage the proposed injunction may cause the opposing party
(4) if issued, the injunction would not be adverse to the public interest.

The parties appear to agree that an individual's loss of the right to vote is clearly an irreparable injury that outweighs any damage caused by extending the deadline, and
that extending the deadline is not adverse to the public interest. The parties disagree, however, on whether Plaintiffs have established a substantial likelihood that
they would succeed on the merits of their claims. While this Court harbors significant reservations concerning the ultimate merits of Plaintiffs' claims, the Court concludes that Plaintiffs have established a sufficient likelihood of success to warrant injunctive relief. An individual's ability to participate in Local and National elections is arguably the most cherished right enshrined in our constitution.

In any event, the Court is satisfied that Plaintiffs have established a sufficient likelihood of success to warrant injunctive relief. Accordingly, Plaintiffs' motion
is GRANTED. As a result, Defendants are DIRECTED to extend the Voter Registration deadline for Chatham Count from October 11th, 2016 to October 18th, 2016.

SO ORDERED this day of October 2016.


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