Court orders’ extending the voter registration deadline for the November 8 election in Chatham County, Georgia

Bryan Cave successfully partnered with The Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights to obtain a court order extending the voter registration deadline for the November 8 election in Chatham County, Georgia.

The action was filed Oct. 12 in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia. The plaintiffs contended that the mandatory evacuations imposed by the governor and the closing of governmental offices, all due to Hurricane Matthew, prevented many potential voters in Chatham County from registering to vote in the Nov. 8 general election. While the voter registration deadline was Oct. 11, the Chatham County Board of Elections office was closed Oct. 6-12. When asked to extend the deadline prior to suit being filed, both the governor and the secretary of state refused to do so.

The plaintiffs argued that the defendants’ failure to extend the voter registration deadline violated the 1st and 14th Amendments of the United States Constitution as well as the provisions of the National Voter Registration Act. The Act requires states to process any voter registration forms received or postmarked at least 30 days prior to an election. The plaintiffs argued that by closing the board of elections more than 30 days in advance of the elections, the defendants had effectively violated the Act.

After an emergency hearing Oct. 14, just two days after the suit was filed, the court granted the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction and extended the voter registration deadline in Chatham County until Oct. 18. Noting the unprecedented nature of the circumstances, the court found that “[e]xtending a small degree of common courtesy by allowing impacted individuals a few extra days to register to vote seems like a rather small consolation on behalf of their government.” It has been noted that over 1,400 voter registration applications were submitted in Chatham County during the extended voter registration period ordered by the judge.

Bryan Cave has advised with a team including Bill Custer (Picture), Jen Dempsey and Joellen Bringardner.

Involved fees earner: William Custer – Bryan Cave; Jennifer Dempsey – Bryan Cave;

Law Firms: Bryan Cave;

Clients: Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights ;

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Author: Ambrogio Visconti