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Court Orders Georgia’s Secretary of State to Release Voter Registration Records in Case Brought by Ropes & Gray with Long-Time Client Project Vote

Tags: Pro Bono

In a case brought by a Ropes & Gray litigation team working on a pro bono basis with Washington D.C.-based voting rights advocacy group Project Vote, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia ruled on Tuesday that a federal lawsuit to ensure the transparency of Georgia's voter registration records will proceed, and that the state must release certain records under the public disclosure requirements of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) of 1993.

In July, Ropes & Gray filed suit on behalf of Project Vote against Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, in his capacity as Georgia's chief election official. The lawsuit charges that Georgia has consistently refused to release records that would allow Project Vote and other advocacy groups to ensure that eligible Georgians who apply to become registered voters are not being wrongfully rejected by the state.  Attorneys for Mr. Kemp had filed a motion to dismiss the case, claiming, among other arguments, that electronic records requested by the plaintiffs did not fall under the purview of the NVRA, and that the Help America Vote Act of 2002 would preclude such disclosures.

U.S. District Court Judge William S. Duffey rejected Mr. Kemp’s arguments and denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss. The court also granted, in part, Project Vote’s request for a preliminary injunction, ordering Mr. Kemp to release most of the records Project Vote requested by Oct. 7.  In a lengthy opinion, the court recognized that “the purpose of the NVRA’s disclosure provision is to allow the public to oversee voter registration processes to ‘protect the integrity of the electoral process’ and ‘ensure that accurate and current voter registration rolls are maintained.’”  Judge Duffey’s order represents a victory for voters and voting rights advocates ahead of elections this November.

The Ropes & Gray team is supervised by business & securities litigation partner John Ertman (New York) and includes business & securities litigation associate Jonathan Ference-Burke and antitrust associate David Young (both of Washington, D.C.). In addition to Ropes & Gray, Project Vote is represented by Atlanta-based Caplan Cobb LLP, including Ropes & Gray alumnus James Cobb. 

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