A New York primary lawsuit might just change everything on the day of the primary itself, but it won’t be happening today. Election Justice USA filed an emergency lawsuit in New York on behalf of registered Democrats whose voter status or party affiliation was purged from the voter rolls. (If you can’t vote, find out what to do here.) A hearing for the lawsuit took place this Tuesday morning, April 19. A new hearing then happened at 2 p.m., but nothing was resolved yet. What does this hearing mean for the primary in New York that is happening today?
Here’s what we know so far.
1. Election Justice USA Filed the Lawsuit on Behalf of Democrats Whose Registration Was Purged
Election Justice USA filed the emergency lawsuit in New York the day before the primary. The lawsuit is requesting the “immediate restoration” of voting rights for any New York voters who had previously been registered to vote and now are not. It also seeks to restore the voting rights of any New York voter who had previously registered or voted as a Democrat and is now listed as unaffiliated or Republican. Because the New York primary is closed, you can only vote for the party with which you’re registered.
Shyla Nelson, spokeswoman for EJUSA, said:
We have heard hundreds of stories, with desperate pleas for help. This election season has excited and galvanized the voting public in unprecedented numbers. For these voters to be systematically and erroneously removed from the rolls or prevented from voting in their party of choice is devastating to them personally and has sent a wave of doubt and worry through the voting public.”
According to Gothamist, the lawsuit reads:
“Plaintiffs are in imminent harm of losing their right to vote. They have beseeched the various Boards of Elections without result. Nothing can save their right to vote save an order from this Court.”
As of Friday, more than 200 voters had signed onto the lawsuit. The case is called Campanello et al v. New York State Board of Elections et al. The official link to the case is here.
To read more about the case, you will want to view the following files:
Some are asking why the lawsuit is focusing on Democrat voters rather than Democrats and Republicans. Although a court ruling, depending on what it is, could affect both groups, all the named plaintiffs in the lawsuit are Democrats. Election Justice USA sought stories from voters whose registration had been purged or whose party affiliation was changed. Most of the stories have been coming from Democrat voters, and if only Democrats responded, that would be why they are featured in the lawsuit’s claims.
2. A Hearing Was Ordered for a Later Date, With No Emergency Changes Authorized for Today
A hearing for the lawsuit took place at 100 Federal Plaza, Central Islip. Unfortunately, no definitive decisions were made, even during the second hearing at 2 pm. Jordan Chariton with The Young Turks shared that a hearing was scheduled for a later date, with the possibility that provisional ballots might still be counted after that hearing takes place. Unfortunately, that doesn’t give any promises to voters who are casting their ballots today.
The plaintiffs were asked to name every single New York county as a defendant in the lawsuit and give each county notice that they have to appear in court to defend their voter registration process, Chariton reported. There are over sixty counties that will need to be named. Meanwhile, the New York Board of Election representative said that they weren’t responsible for the counties and had nothing to do with the problems.
The lawsuit wasn’t dismissed, so that’s good. But we’ll have to wait to find out what’s happening next.
Election Justice USA was hoping the court would open the primary to voters whose registrations were purged. Nothing definitive is happening, although a future hearing may force provisional ballots to be included at a later date.
According to Shyla Nelson of Election Justice USA, they formally served notice to the Board of Elections and the Attorney General. They hearing dragged on because they were waiting for an Attorney General representative to appear at the court house. They waited for so long that Election Justice USA asked the judge for immediate summons.
3. Disenfranchised Voters Should Try to Get a Court Order First
If you were previously registered as a Democrat in New York and now that is not showing up in your voter registration, your first course of action should be getting a court order if you have the time. Judges are on call at local board of elections boroughs to help. Here’s what the court order request looks like:
If you have the time to try to get one, a court order will allow you to get a regular ballot for voting. Judges will be on call at each borough’s board of elections office to meet with voters and issue court orders when relevant. You can read more about the process in this story.
If you don’t have time to seek a court order, you can file an affidavit vote in case the hearing is ultimately successful, according to Bernie Sanders supporters on Reddit. This means that you sign an affidavit declaring that you are a registered Democrat when you’re voting. If asked why, you can tell the polling station employees that you’re filing an affidavit vote due to a case pending in federal district court, Docket # CV-16 1892.
The Gothamist says that you should be filing a provisional ballot if you’re one of the disenfranchised voters, because the lawsuit asks the state to preserve all provisional ballots. However, it will be a while before we know the results of the lawsuit, and we won’t know anything more today.
4. Thousands of Registered Voters Found Their Party Affiliation Changed or Their Registration Dropped
Many people across the country, including New York, are reporting problems with their voter registrations being changed without their permission. Here are just a few of the many examples from New York specifically. To see more examples and hear more stories from the primary today, see this article.
Shelly Berry shared on Facebook that she had proof her New York voter registration was changed. Her registration was switched from Democrat to unaffiliated and she was told the change was made in 2012. She had the agent at the board of elections office print out the 2012 form and compare it to another form on file that she knew she had filled out. The handwriting was distinctly different, as you can see in the photo above.
At the beginning of April, one Reddit user, “Brightben,” shared that he had been checking his New York voter registration status weekly and one morning found that his registration was no longer listed online. A week earlier, he was listed as a registered Democrat. He eventually learned that because he shares a middle initial with another voter, he was registered under the wrong name and neither of them could vote until the error was fixed. Now he can only vote via an affidavit ballot. Another voter’s registration was lost, and it was because his birthdate was entered wrong. He had to call an agent with the BOE to get it fixed.
Another Redditor commented that he and his wife had voted for Obama in 2008 and again in 2012. But the New York website now says that neither of them are registered, even though none of his information had changed. Another person reported that he registered in December 2015, got an approval email, had the voter registration card in his wallet, and online he was being told that he was not registered.
And earlier this week, it was discovered that 54,000 Democrat voters in Brooklyn simply vanished from the registration rolls sometime between November and April, the New York Post reported. Today, Gothamist reported that those numbers are actually twice what was originally thought.
5. Many Voters Want an Open Primary in New York
Many voters want the entire process to be simplified and for New York to simply change to an open primary. Legislation is currently in place requesting just that. But this particular lawsuit is not about opening this primary. It’s focused on helping the disenfranchised voters who were registered as Democrats still be able to vote.
The video above, by The Young Turks, shares some of the many problems New York voters have faced and why they want the voting process changed. At 9:07 in the video, the author of this Heavy.com article shares what she has learned about voter issues.
New York state law has a provision that lets parties use a different method than closed for a primary if they want. But only the Independence Party has taken advantage of that and let unaffiliated voters take part in elections. According to Think Progress, bills to reform the election process are turned into to the state legislature every year, and they always fail.
Assemblyman Fred Thiele introduced legislation to the New York State Legislature on March 24 requesting that the primary be opened. You can read Thiele’s submitted legislation here. The bill would open the presidential primary and, if approved, would take effect immediately upon approval. Supporters of the legislation are asking voters to vote their support for the bill online here.