Protecting the Rights of Voters

For nearly two decades, our lawyers have worked in concert with pro bono partners across the United States to secure equal access to voting and to safeguard this basic, fundamental right. This year was no exception, as Latham lawyers across the firm provided essential voter assistance.

Four months ahead of the 2022 general election, the governor of Arizona signed into law House Bill 2243 requiring counties to purge voter rolls — a purge aimed squarely at voters of color and naturalized citizens. The legislation set up a vigilante form of election policing in which anyone could accuse a registered voter of being ineligible to vote. A simple accusation could trigger the cancelation of the accused’s registration and a potential criminal investigation into their citizenship status.

The bill carried a particularly immediate threat to voting rights. It was set to take effect just 45 days before Election Day, leaving Arizona counties just enough time to purge the rolls, but not enough time for affected voters to prove their citizenship. The governor had vetoed an identical bill earlier characterizing the citizenship verification requirement as “vague and lack[ing] any guidance for how a county recorder would confirm [citizenship].” He also found it set the stage for “bad actors” to “seek to falsely allege a voter is not a qualified elector.” Notwithstanding his prior veto and statements, the governor ultimately reversed course and signed House Bill 2243.

We co-counseled with Asian Americans Advancing Justice to challenge this law, along with House Bill 2492, and halt their implementation. Together, we filed a complaint on behalf of the Arizona Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander for Equity Coalition. We cited the various ways in which Arizona had violated the US Constitution: by burdening the right to vote, discriminating against certain citizens, and failing to provide due process, among other violations of federal law. Nine days later, we sought a preliminary injunction against House Bill 2243 to block the chaos and intimidation it would unleash on the imminent election. Arizona was ordered to respond within a month. After reviewing our comprehensive filing, the defendants instead entered into negotiations.

For nearly two decades, our lawyers have worked in concert with pro bono partners across the US to secure equal access to voting and to safeguard this basic, fundamental right. 

The court signed a joint order instructing the defendants not to take any action to implement or enforce House Bill 2243 in a manner that would remove voter eligibility or disqualify any otherwise valid ballots prior to January 2023. This stipulated order effectively ended the threat to the November 2022 election.

In another matter, our litigators sprang into action following reports of egregious voter intimidation and harassment occurring in Beaumont, Texas, just before Election Day. At a voting location where approximately 90% of the voters are Black, white poll workers repeatedly and aggressively demanded that Black voters recite their addresses, within earshot of other voters, poll workers, and poll watchers, even when the voter had already been checked in by another poll worker — just one of several examples of intimidation.

Election officials disregarded complaints from other poll workers and voters. Over a blistering 48-hour period, our lawyers partnered with Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law on behalf of Black voters and the local NAACP to prepare and file a federal lawsuit and motion for temporary restraining order.

Following a three-hour evidentiary hearing on the eve of Election Day, the judge granted an emergency order that prohibited election judges, clerks, and others from turning away voters who are eligible to vote, from refusing to assist voters, and from otherwise impeding people from exercising their right to participate in our democratic process.