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Mi Familia Vota, Texas NAACP and Individual Plaintiff Seek Emergency Order to Prevent Public Health Risk to Texas Voters

ECBAWM, along with Free Speech for People, Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP, and Lyons & Lyons, P.C., represents Mi Familia Vota, the Texas State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and an individual plaintiff in a lawsuit filed against Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Texas Secretary of State Ruth Hughs.

Plaintiffs seek a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to immediately excise the mask mandate exemption in Governor Abbott’s July 2, 2020 Executive Order relating to the use of face masks (Executive Order GA-29). While the Order specifically states that “requiring the use of face coverings is a targeted response that can combat the threat to public health using the least restrictive means,” and that “wearing a face covering is important not only to protect oneself, but also to avoid unknowingly harming fellow Texans,” it also includes an exemption for all people at polling places:

“Every person in Texas shall wear a face covering over the nose and mouth when inside a commercial entity or other building or space open to the public, or when in an outdoor public space, wherever it is not feasible to maintain six feet of social distancing from another person not in the same household; provided, however, that this face-covering requirement does not apply to the following:

8. any person who is voting, assisting a voter, serving as a poll watcher, or actively administering an election, but wearing a face covering is strongly encouraged.”

This exemption to Executive Order GA-29 creates an unacceptable and unnecessary health risk to all poll workers and voters, but especially to Black and Latino voters, who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic and are likely to experience serious COVID-19 illnesses more frequently and with a higher rate of death as compared to white COVID-19 patients. Black and Latino voters are also more likely to wait in longer lines than white voters, increasing the chances for exposure to COVID-19.

Despite evidence of this increased risk and the Governor’s own acknowledgment, supported by scientific findings, that masks help combat the spread of COVID-19 by the “least restrictive means,” Governor Abbot has refused to withdraw the exemption for mask wearing at polling sites. Plaintiffs’ Complaint alleges that the exemption is a violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, because it disproportionately burdens the rights of Black and Latino voters.

ECBAWM attorneys Jonathan S. Abady, Matthew D. Brinckerhoff, O. Andrew F. Wilson, and Debra L. Greenberger represent the plaintiffs.

Additional coverage of this case:
“5th. Cir. Revives Challenge to Texas’ Voter Mask Exemption” (Law360.com)
“Federal appeals court revives challenges to Texas election policy allowing poll workers to forgo wearing masks” (Jurist)

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ECBAWM Clients Sue Trump Administration for Voter Intimidation

Mi Familia Vota Education Fund and individual plaintiffs sue President Trump, Attorney General William Barr, and Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf for voter intimidation in violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Ku Klux Klan Act, and the U.S. Constitution.

The complaint alleges that the defendants’ threats to send “sheriffs” and other “law enforcement” to the polls, their encouragement of white supremacist “vigilantes” to monitor the polls, their undermining of mail-in voting, their violent suppression of public protests opposing police brutality, and their rejection of the peaceful transfer of power, collectively constitute illegal voter intimidation. A motion for preliminary injunctive relief and expedited declaratory relief was filed simultaneously with the complaint. The plaintiffs seek to enjoin defendants from continuing to intimidate voters and seek a declaration that defendants’ voter intimidation tactics are unlawful.

To read more about the lawsuit click here.
To read the complaint click here.

Media coverage of the lawsuit can be found at The Hill, Forbes, Newsweek, and other national outlets. 

ECBAWM attorneys Matthew Brinckerhoff, Jonathan S. Abady, Sam Shapiro, and Marissa Benavides represent the clients together with Free Speech for People and Mehri & Skallet, PLLC.

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ECBAWM Clients Challenge Campaign To Send Armed Guards to Minnesota Polls

Free Speech for People, Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel LLP, and Lathrop GPM LLP, filed a federal lawsuit today on behalf of the Plaintiffs, The Council on American-Islamic Relations of Minnesota and the League of Women Voters of Minnesota, against a private mercenary contractor, Atlas Aegis, for voter intimidation in Minnesota. The complaint alleges that Atlas Aegis’s plan to hire and deploy armed ex-soldiers to polling sites in the state constitutes illegal voter intimidation under the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

To read more about the lawsuit, click here.

More coverage of the lawsuit can be found on The Minnesota Reformer, Talking Points Memo, and Minneapolis Star Tribune.

ECBAWM attorneys Jonathan S. AbadyMatthew D. Brinckerhoff, O. Andrew F. Wilson, Debra L. Greenberger, and Vivake Prasad represent the plaintiffs together with Free Speech For People and Lathrop GPM LLP.

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Federal Judge Extends Voter Registration Deadline In Arizona

Voting Rights Advocates Celebrate Victory Which Will Allow Thousands More to Register In Advance of the November 2020 Election

In response to a voting rights lawsuit, a federal judge in Arizona issued an order on October 5 extending the voter registration deadline in the state to October 23, given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on voter registration.

“[A] core tenet of democracy is to be ruled by a government that represents the population,” U.S. District Judge Steven P. Logan wrote in his decision. “Due to COVID-19, a portion of the population is prevented from registering to vote, and thus the integrity of the election is undermined in a different way; that portion is going unrepresented. Extending the deadline would give more time for those voters to register and let their voices be heard through the democratic process.”

ECBAWM LLP, together with Free Speech for People and Osborn Maledon P.A., represent Mi Familia Vota, the Arizona Coalition for Change, and an individual voter registration organizer who filed the lawsuit on September 30, seeking a court order extending the October 5 voter registration cutoff.

“This is a huge victory for democracy,” says Flavio Bravo of Mi Familia Vota. “With this court-ordered relief, thousands more voters will be able to register to vote in the midst of this pandemic and will be able to participate in the November 2020 election.”

This year, organizations that register citizens to vote were effectively prevented from registering voters from March 30, 2020, when Arizona imposed a stay-at-home order and other restrictions on day-to-day interactions in order to mitigate the effects of the pandemic, to the middle of August when those restrictions were lifted. As a result, new voter registration has been far lower than in previous years.

With the lifting of the state’s restrictions, plaintiffs have recently pivoted their operations to adapt to the pandemic, registering thousands of Arizona voters. Yet Arizona’s voter registration deadline—earlier than most states, threatened to prematurely halt those efforts.

“This ruling is a vindication of the fundamental right to vote,” says Reginald Bolding of the Arizona Coalition for Change. “Court intervention here was necessary to address the impact of the pandemic on voter registration. Thanks to this ruling, many more voters will have their voices heard in this election.”

ECBAWM attorneys Jonathan S. Abady, Matthew D. Brinckerhoff, Zoe Salzman, and Nick Bourland represent the plaintiffs together with Free Speech For People and Osborn Maledon P.A.

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Historic Settlement in Pennsylvania

ECBAWM has settled the 2016 Pennsylvania recount case brought by presidential candidate Jill Stein and Pennsylvania voters. The lawsuit challenged Pennsylvania’s use of paperless voting systems, as well as its byzantine, anti-voter recount procedures.

The settlement requires Pennsylvania to provide voter-verifiable paper ballots to all voters by 2020, and automatic, robust, statewide election audits by 2022.

“With this settlement, Pennsylvania will go from an election integrity backwater to a national leader,” said Ilann M. Maazel. “We will be watching closely to ensure Pennsylvania implements every one of these important election reforms.”

The Pennsylvania plaintiffs are represented by Ilann M. Maazel, Ali Frick, and Doug Lieb, as well as co-counsel Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads. In addition, Jonathan Abady and Andrew G. Celli Jr. represented the overall Stein 2016 recount effort.

The settlement can be found here. The press release is here.

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Rachel Maddow Interviews Professor Sarah Chayes About Donald Trump’s Violations of the Emoluments Clause

On October 18, 2017, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington presented oral argument in their landmark Emoluments Clause lawsuit against Donald Trump before Judge George B. Daniels of the Southern District of New York.  Sarah P. Chayes of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, on whose behalf ECBAWM filed an amicus curiae brief in support of CREW, was interviewed by Rachel Maddow on October 20, 2017.  The interview featured Chayes’s analysis of the case and of oral argument and excerpts from ECBAWM’s brief.  CREW’s Second Amended Complaint is available here.  Chayes’s amicus brief is available here.  Chayes’s interview with Maddow is available here.  The New York Times, the Washington Post, and Slate, among other outlets, covered the recent argument.

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ECBAWM Leads Historic Recount Litigation on Behalf of Jill Stein in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania

In the first ever legal effort to challenge election results in multiple jurisdictions for a Presidential contest in the United States, ECBAWM is representing Jill Stein and her campaign in election integrity efforts and attempts to obtain recounts in three states: Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. Stein filed petitions for recount in Michigan and Wisconsin, and mobilized voters to seek recounts in Pennsylvania. ECBAWM has litigated various state and federal actions to pursue those recount requests. The most recent information and filings concerning the rapidly-changing developments in the three states are available here for Pennsylvania, here for Michigan, and here for Wisconsin.

ECBAWM attorneys Jonathan S. Abady, Matt D. Brinckerhoff, Andrew G. Celli, Jr., Ilann Maazel, Elizabeth Saylor, Debra L. Greenberger, Ali Frick, David Lebowitz, Hayley Horowitz, Doug Lieb, Alanna Small, and Jessica Clark are the lawyers litigating these efforts.

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Public Relations Firms File First-Amendment Challenge to New State Lobbying Rules

Five bi-partisan, high-profile public relations firms, represented by Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel and the Center for Competitive Politics, filed a federal lawsuit to block a new rule adopted by the New York’s State Joint Commission on Public Ethics.  Under the new rule, every time the public relations firms speak with an editorial board, reporter or other member of the media about any pending, proposed, or ongoing legislation or other government action, they would be required to register with the state and disclose the subject of their communications and extensive details about their businesses and their clients.   The rule is unprecedented and unworkable in its expansiveness and, as the plaintiffs’ brief says, “directly inhibits and chills the rights of public relations firms and their clients to participate in discussions of public matters with and in the press, to serve as anonymous sources to the press, and to exercise their core speech and associational rights free from government inspection or the threat of prosecution or sanction.”

The public relations firms–The November Group, Inc., BerlinRosen Public Affairs Ltd, Anat Gerstein, Inc., Risa Heller Communications LLC, and Mercury Public Affairs–are represented by ECBAWM attorneys Andrew G. Celli, Jr., Ilann M. Maazel, and Hayley Horowitz, and by CCP Attorney Allen Dickerson. The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, and the New York Daily News have all covered the lawsuit.

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Bipartisan Group Sues To Close New York’s Corporate Donation Loophole

Today, Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel and the Brennan Center for Justice, on behalf of several former and current State legislators and other plaintiffs, filed suit against the New York State Board of Elections to close the State’s infamous “LLC Loophole.” Since the Loophole was created by the BOE in 1996, contributors donating through LLCs have circumvented contribution limits and disclosure requirements that the Legislature created to protect the integrity of New York’s democratic process — and injected millions of secret dollars into state elections. In April the Brennan Center and Emery Celli asked the BOE to close the Loophole, but the board, in a 2-2 vote, refused to rescind its earlier decision and thereby defeated this attempt at reform. This lawsuit presents a promising opportunity to close the Loophole once and for all. ECBAWM attorneys Andrew G. Celli Jr., Elizabeth Saylor, and Ali Frick represent the bipartisan group of plaintiffs.

The New York TimesThe Daily News, The Albany Times Union, The Associated Press, Newsday, and The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, among other outlets, covered the lawsuit. Click here to read the press release about the case. On July 21, 2015, the New York Times editorial board called on the court to adopt ECBAWM and the Brennan Center’s position and close the LLC Loophole.

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Andrew Wilson Publishes Article on Gerrymandering

Andrew Wilson published an article titled “Population predominance in Racial Gerrymandering,” with the American Bar Association’s civil rights section. The article addresses the Supreme Court’s recent treatment of racial gerrymandering and the Court’s statement on the role of equal-population objectives in redistricting analysis. To read the full article, click here: Population Predominance in Racial Gerrymandering.

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