Featured Case: Mi Familia Vota and Individual Voters v. Abbott

Free Speech For People represents Mi Familia Vota and individual voters in this challenge of a new voter suppression law enacted by the Texas Legislature. The lawsuit challenges Texas Senate Bill No. 1 (SB 1), a law designed to suppress votes from Texans of color and other marginalized communities through measures that include prohibiting drive-through voting, limiting voting hours, making it unlawful for counties to automatically mail eligible voters mail-in ballot applications; implementing stricter rules for voting by mail; allowing election officials to reject allegedly defective ballots without notice to the voter prior to the election; implementing monthly purges of voter rolls; limiting physical and language assistance at the polls; and enabling partisan poll watchers, which creates increased risk of voter intimidation. Free Speech For People is pleased to partner with the law firms of Stoel Rives and Lyons & Lyons in this litigation.

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Legal Actions Challenging Voter Suppression

CHALLENGING VOTER SUPPRESSION LAW IN TEXAS: MI FAMILIA VOTA AND INDIVIDUAL VOTERS V. ABBOTT

Free Speech For People represents Mi Familia Vota and individual voters in this challenge of a new voter suppression law enacted by the Texas Legislature. The lawsuit challenges Texas Senate Bill No. 1 (SB 1), a law designed to suppress votes from Texans of color and other marginalized communities through measures that include prohibiting drive-through voting, limiting voting hours, making it unlawful for counties to automatically mail eligible voters mail-in ballot applications; implementing stricter rules for voting by mail; allowing election officials to reject allegedly defective ballots without notice to the voter prior to the election; implementing monthly purges of voter rolls; limiting physical and language assistance at the polls; and enabling partisan poll watchers, which creates increased risk of voter intimidation. Free Speech For People is pleased to partner with the law firms of Stoel Rives and Lyons & Lyons in this litigation.

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CHALLENGING TWO VOTER SUPPRESSION LAWS IN ARIZONA: MI FAMILIA VOTA, ARIZONA COALITION FOR CHANGE, LIVING UNITED FOR CHANGE IN ARIZONA, AND CHISPA ARIZONA V. HOBBS

Free Speech For People represents Mi Familia Vota, Arizona Coalition for Change, Living United for Change in Arizona (LUCHA), and Chispa Arizona in this challenge of two new voter suppression laws passed by the Arizona legislature, which will disproportionately disenfranchise Black, Native American, and Latino voters. With our litigation, we will seek to overturn SB 1485, a law that will result in voters being removed from the Permanent Early Voting List by 2024 if they fail to vote in two consecutive election cycles, and SB 1003, a law that gives voters only until 7pm on election day to cure a mail-in ballot that is missing a signature, disenfranchising voters with a lack of access to transportation, child-care, leave from work, or other barriers. Free Speech For People is pleased to partner with the law firms of Mayer Brown LLP and Quarles & Brady LLP in this litigation.

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Legal Actions Challenging Unsafe and Unequal Voting Practices During the Pandemic

CHALLENGING UNSAFE AND UNEQUAL ELECTIONS PRACTICES IN TEXAS: MI FAMILIA VOTA V. ABBOTT

Free Speech For People filed a lawsuit in federal court in Texas on behalf of Mi Familia Vota, the Texas NAACP, and individual Texas voters challenging Texas’s in-person election practices, which are unsafe, high risk, and unequal during the COVID-19 pandemic. The lawsuit alleges that the state’s reliance on repeat-touch voting machines, its insufficient number of polling places, its limited and inaccessible early voting locations, and its voter identification requirements will result in unsafe voting conditions and increased risk of coronavirus transmission. The health risks and adverse impact of these policies will place an undue burden on the right to vote and be borne disproportionately by voters of color, in violation of the U.S. Constitution and the Voting Rights Act.

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CHALLENGING PREMATURE VOTER REGISTRATION DEADLINE IN ARIZONA: MI FAMILIA VOTA V. HOBBS

Free Speech For People represents Mi Familia Vota, the Arizona Coalition for Change, and an individual voter registration organizer, in this challenge in federal district court in Arizona, alleging First and Fourteenth Amendment violations as applied.  From March to August 2020, organizations that register citizens to vote in Arizona were effectively prevented from registering due to a stay-at-home order and other restrictions on day-to-day interactions in order to mitigate the effects of the pandemic.  We seek a court order extending the October 5 voter registration cutoff. On October 5, the court granted our request for a preliminary injunction and extended the deadline to October 23, 2020. On October 13, 2020, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a ruling limiting to October 15, 2020 the amount of additional time for voters in Arizona to register to vote for the November 2020 election.

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Legal Actions Challenging Intimidation of Voters

CHALLENGING ILLEGAL VOTER INTIMIDATION IN MINNESOTA:
CAIR MINNESOTA V. ATLAS AEGIS

Free Speech For People represented the Council on American-Islamic Relations of Minnesota (CAIR-MN) and the League of Women Voters of Minnesota in a federal lawsuit against a private mercenary contractor, Atlas Aegis, for voter intimidation in Minnesota. The lawsuit alleged 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. We obtained a preliminary injunction to stop the defendants’ unlawful conduct and to protect the fundamental right to vote in the 2020 election, and then reached a sweeping five-year consent decree to protect the right to vote in future elections. Free Speech For People was pleased to partner with the law firms of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel LLP, and Lathrop GPM LLP in this litigation.

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CHALLENGING ILLEGAL VOTER INTIMIDATION:
MI FAMILIA VOTA V. TRUMP

Free Speech For People represented Mi Familia Vota Education Fund and individual voters in a lawsuit against President Trump and members of the administration in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The lawsuit was based on the defendants’ violent suppression of public protests opposing police brutality, the encouragement of white supremacist “vigilantes,” threats to send “sheriffs” and other law enforcement to the polls, the undermining of mail-in voting, and the rejection of the peaceful transfer of power. These actions constitute illegal voter intimidation under the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 and unconstitutional suppression of speech and votes under the First and Fifth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. We sought a preliminary injunction restraining Trump and the other defendants from continuing to engage in this unconstitutional and illegal intimidation. Unfortunately, Senior Judge Richard Leon of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia denied our motion.

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Legal Actions Challenging the Use of Insecure Voting Machines

FIGHTING CAPTURE OF ELECTION REGULATORS BY VOTING MACHINE MANUFACTURERS: PHILIP STARK ET AL V. UNITED STATES ELECTION ASSISTANCE COMMISSION

Philip Stark, a federally appointed advisor to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (“EAC”), and Free Speech For People filed a federal lawsuit against the EAC. The lawsuit alleges that the EAC violated the Administrative Procedure Act, the Help America Vote Act of 2002, and the Federal Advisory Committee Act, by unlawfully holding private meetings with voting machine vendors to discuss proposed federal voting system standards after the closure of the public notice and comment period. These meetings resulted in the EAC revising the federal voting system standards to weaken voting system security requirements, to the benefit of voting system manufacturers.

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LEGAL CHALLENGE TO THE INSECURE EXPRESSVOTE XL VOTING MACHINE: NEDC V. BOOCKVAR

Free Speech For People has filed a lawsuit in Pennsylvania state court challenging the use of the insecure, unreliable ExpressVote XL voting machines. The lawsuit, filed against Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar with the pro bono assistance of the law firm Baker Hostetler LLP, argues that the ExpressVote XL does not meet legal requirements for voting machines under the Pennsylvania Election Code, and use of it violates voting rights under the Pennsylvania Constitution. Our lawsuit seeks an order to the Secretary to decertify the ExpressVote XL.

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COMMENT SUBMITTED TO THE U.S. ELECTION ASSISTANCE COMMISSION

Free Speech For People and the National Election Defense Coalition (NEDC) submitted a public comment to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission regarding the Commission’s proposed new voting system guidelines. The Commission’s past practice has been that, after guidelines have been updated, voting machine vendors can still certify their machines against the older guidelines. Our comment asks the Commission to ensure that the older guidelines are retired for good.

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COMMENT HIGHLIGHTING MAJOR FLAWS IN LOS ANGELES COUNTY VOTING SYSTEM

Free Speech For People and the National Election Defense Coalition submitted public comments to California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, regarding the proposed certification of Los Angeles county’s Voting Solutions for All People 2.0 (VSAP) election system. The joint letter addresses the system’s non-compliance with California Voting System Standards, and flaws that bring the VSAP’s security and reliability into question.

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Legal Actions to Challenge the Use of Wireless Modems in Voting Machines

CHALLENGING FALSE ADVERTISING BY VOTING MACHINE VENDORS

On August 13, we won a significant victory before the US Election Assistance Commission (EAC). In January, we co-wrote a letter to the EAC which detailed evidence showing that Election Systems & Software (ES&S), the nation’s largest voting machine manufacturer, was deceptively marketing its DS200 voting machines that include wireless modems as federally certified by the EAC. In response to our letter, the EAC launched an investigation of the voting system and agreed with our findings. The EAC has now censured ES&S for the false claims, and is directing ES&S to recall all misleading marketing materials, in addition to notifying customers to inform them that the voting systems with modems are non-EAC certified.

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LETTER URGING MICHIGAN ATTORNEY GENERAL TO INITIATE INQUIRY INTO ELECTRONIC VOTING MACHINE VENDOR’S MISREPRESENTATION OF INSECURE WIRELESS MODEMS

Free Speech For People issued a letter to Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel urging her office to launch an inquiry into ES&S’s false claims about its DS200 ballot tabulators with wireless modems. Although ES&S frequently claims that its voting tabulators never connect to the internet, researchers have found multiple election systems visible on  the internet. The letter further calls for the state to compel ES&S to remove the modems at no cost to the state or localities and consider judicial action if the vendor refuses to do so.

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Challenging Internet Voting

Free Speech For People joined a coalition of scientific experts and government watchdog groups in issuing an open letter calling on Governors, Secretaries of State and State Elections Directors to avoid the use of any internet voting or voting app system in U.S. elections. Free Speech For People signed the letter along with the AAAS Center For Scientific Evidence in Public Issues, the Association for Computing Machinery U.S. Technology Policy Committee, Brennan Center For Justice, Common Cause, Computer Research Association, R Street, and Verified Voting.

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Demanding Access to Public Records

Virtual Forum: Today’s Electronic Voting Machines

AN EXAMINATION OF THE USE AND SECURITY OF BALLOT MARKING DEVICES

On Tuesday, June 22, 2021, Free Speech For People and Coalition for Good Governance held a virtual forum on Zoom, featuring experts in election administration and computer science to explore this rapidly expanding election technology. Electronic Ballot Marking Devices (BMD), once used primarily to offer assistive technology to mark a paper ballot, are now being adopted widely as the primary voting method for all voters in several states and counties. But how do these machines satisfy the principles of security, transparency, and auditability necessary for trustworthy elections? And what are the potential legal complications? This forum took an in-depth look at these questions and more, and aims to provide election officials, state and federal lawmakers, voters, and stakeholder groups with critical considerations regarding the use of BMDs as a primary voting method. Presented by Free Speech For People, Coalition for Good Governance, Professor Richard Demillo, Chair of the School of Cybersecurity and Privacy at Georgia Tech*, and Professor J. Alex Halderman of the University of Michigan’s Center for Computer Security and Society.* *Affiliations listed for identification purposes only and do not imply institutional endorsement.

Photo credit: Elliott Stallion on Unsplash, Andrey_Popov / Shutterstock.com, Billion Photos / Shutterstock.com.

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