For nearly two decades, Latham & Watkins lawyers have worked in concert with pro bono partners across the US to secure equal access to voting. Our work aims to safeguard this basic, fundamental right. This year was no exception, as Latham lawyers across the firm provided essential voter assistance to safeguard the right to vote — and led a blistering two days of impact litigation to prevent intimidation and harassment of Black voters in Beaumont, Texas.
The weekend before Election Day, Latham lawyers were notified of egregious voter intimidation and harassment occurring in Beaumont. At a voting location where approximately 90% of the voters are Black, election officials had directed a remarkable shift in the way voters were treated. As six witnesses stated in sworn declarations, White poll workers repeatedly and aggressively demanded that Black voters recite their addresses, out loud and within earshot of other voters, poll workers, and poll watchers. They would demand such acquiescence even when the voter had already been checked in by another poll worker. They would follow Black voters around the polling place, standing in close proximity while the voter was attempting to cast their vote in privacy. And they would then stand idle, neglecting their duties to assist Black voters who had voted but did not know how to scan their ballots into the machine.
Other workers and voters complained — and the officials disregarded. So, a rapid-response Latham team, along with partner Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, fought back: preparing and filing a federal lawsuit and motion for temporary restraining order within 48 hours, and on the day before the election. After a three-hour evidentiary hearing beginning at 6:30 pm the eve of Election Day, and attended by approximately two dozen community members, the judge granted in critical part our request for a TRO, issuing an emergency order that prohibits election judges, clerks, workers, volunteers, and watchers at the polling location from requesting or ordering any voters to publicly recite their addresses before allowing them to vote, from turning away voters who are eligible to vote, from refusing to assist voters, and from positioning themselves near voters who are marking their ballots such that they can view voters’ selections.
The team includes partners Sadik Huseny and Jeff Homrig, associate Nat Bass, and litigation services colleagues Jess Bengels, Megan Dran, and Linda Tam.