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Ropes & Gray and ACLU File Suit to Challenge Massachusetts 20-Day Voter Registration Cutoff Law

Practices: Litigation, Appellate & Supreme Court Tags: Pro Bono

A Ropes & Gray litigation team working on a pro bono basis, together with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Massachusetts and the national ACLU's Voting Rights Project, filed a voting rights lawsuit in Massachusetts’ Suffolk Superior Court challenging Massachusetts' 20-day voter registration cutoff law.

The case argues that the voter registration cutoff law has led to the arbitrary disenfranchisement of thousands of eligible voters, and was brought on behalf of the Chelsea Collaborative, MassVOTE, several individual registered voters, and a class of similarly situated individuals. The ACLU of Massachusetts, the national ACLU's Voting Rights Project, and Ropes & Gray are asking the court to declare the law unconstitutional, order the government to end its enforcement, and allow the named individual plaintiffs to vote in next week's election.

"Our team is not only seeking a preliminary injunction to allow our individual plaintiffs to vote in the November 8 election, but also permanent relief declaring the voter registration cutoff law unconstitutional. The Massachusetts legislature can then establish a registration law ensuring that eligible voters are not left out of future elections," said Kirsten Mayer, partner in Ropes & Gray’s government enforcement practice. "Voting is an important civil liberty, and this case is designed to protect it."

Massachusetts' new early-voting option demonstrates that a 20-day registration cutoff is arbitrary and unwarranted. Under the early voting law, anyone who registered to vote on October 19, 2016, was permitted to cast a ballot five days later when early voting began on October 24. Yet under the state’s voter registration cutoff law, anyone who registered to vote on October 20 will not be permitted to cast a ballot 19 days later on Election Day. The case argues that this makes no sense; voters deserve flexibility from their government, not disenfranchisement.

The Ropes & Gray team includes government enforcement partner Kirsten Mayer and associate Patrick Welsh.

To read the ACLU’s press release, click here.

To read coverage from The Boston Globe, click here (subscription required).

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