On Tuesday, December 3, Natasha Korgaonkar, assistant counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund’s Political Participation Group, and Sarah Brannon, attorney for co-counsel Project Vote, presented oral argument before a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals that Louisiana has violated the National Voter Registration Act by failing to provide mandatory voter registration opportunities to public assistance clients — a failure which disproportionately affects indigent voters and voters of color.
The federal statute, signed into law in 1 993 and referred to as the “Motor Voter Act,” was passed in order to broaden voter registration opportunities for citizens of color, citizens receiving public assistance benefits, and young voters.
In Scott, et al. v. Schedler, et al., the District Court, in the first ruling of its kind, found that Louisiana’s Secretary of State and two state agencies violated the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), which requires certain state public assistance agencies to provide their clients with an opportunity to register to vote.
Korgaonkar and Brannon argued that the District Court’s ruling should stand on appeal.
Since serving in Vietnam and surviving Hurricane Katrina, Mr. Luther Scott, Jr., a New Orleans native and a plaintiff in the case, has struggled to maintain consistent employment. As a result, Mr. Scott has struggled with housing and food instability. Mr. Scott receives SNAP (food stamps) benefits from a Louisiana agency, which, under the NVRA, must provide him and all clients with the opportunity to register to vote during each SNAP transaction.
LDF, along with co-counsel Project Vote and Ron Wilson, sued the agency and the Louisiana Secretary of State, for failing to fulfill their obligations to Mr. Scott and other Louisiana citizens receiving benefits. The Louisiana State Conference of the NAACP is also a plaintiff.
In Louisiana, voter registrations from public assistance agencies plummeted nearly 90% since the NVRA was first implemented, from 75,000 to a mere 9,000. Since the filing of this lawsuit, however, voter registrations from several agencies nearly tripled.
This case highlights LDF’s ongoing efforts to ensure that all Americans, particularly Americans of color, are afforded the right to participate in this country’s political system, irrespective of wealth or race.
Click here to read LDF’s brief.