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December 6, 2021 - Herring Fights to Protect Free and Fair Elections for Voters

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Commonwealth of Virginia Office of the Attorney General

Mark Herring Attorney General

202 North Ninth Street Richmond, Virginia 23219

 

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~ Herring files amicus brief to strike down Florida’s new restrictive voting law ~

RICHMOND Attorney General Mark R. Herring has filed an amicus brief in three cases that are challenging Florida’s restrictive voting law, SB90. The plaintiffs in these cases are arguing that the law – created after the 2020 election – establishes unconstitutional voting restrictions, especially against mail-in ballots, and disproportionately negatively impacts minority voters. In today’s brief, Attorney General Herring joins a coalition of 17 attorneys general in supporting the plaintiff’s arguments that SB90 creates unconstitutional barriers to voting.

 

“Over the past year, restrictive voting laws have been passed by states across the county, severely limiting many Americans’ fundamental right to vote, and especially Americans of color,” said Attorney General Herring. “I am proud that Virginia has worked so hard to move in the opposite direction, providing even more access to voting for those who want to make their voice heard. My colleagues and I will not stand idly by and allow other states to obstruct the very democracy this country was founded on by limiting access to the ballot box.”

 

Florida’s 2020 election saw high voter turnout, with a surge of participation by a young and diverse electorate. However, in the wake of the election, Florida joined a wave of states in passing restrictive voting laws. Florida’s SB90 severely reduces access to vote-by-mail drop boxes, makes it difficult for voters to get assistance returning their mail-in ballots, and requires that voters more frequently re-request to vote by mail.

 

Following the law’s passage, three lawsuits were filed in opposition to the new voting restrictions: Florida Rising Together v. Lee; Florida State Conference of Branches and Youth Units of the NAACP, Common Cause, and Disability Rights Florida v. Lee; and League of Women Voters of Florida v. Lee.

 

In the amicus brief filed in all three cases in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, Attorney General Herring and his colleagues support the plaintiffs, who argue that SB90 has discriminatory impacts on minority voters in Florida, that it was passed with the intent to discriminate, and that the law burdens the fundamental right to vote. The brief also asserts that these claims deserve a full hearing at trial and that summary judgment, which the defendants are asking for, is not warranted. The coalition also argues that it is possible to pursue free and fair elections while expanding voter opportunity in ways that do not risk malfeasance, maladministration, or fraud.

 

Attorney General Herring’s Work Protecting Voters

Protecting Virginians voting rights has been a top priority for Attorney General Herring during his time in office. During the COVID pandemic, Attorney General Herring has worked hard to ensure that all Virginians could vote safely and easily, regardless of how they chose to vote, and protect voters from illegal harassment or intimidation at the polls.

 

Because of all the work that Attorney General Herring and his team did in preparation for Election Day 2020, including making it clear that absolutely no voter intimidation would be tolerated in Virginia and preparing and planning for any and all outcomes or potential legal challenges, the Commonwealth saw a remarkably smooth and uneventful Election day. In addition to the OAG attorneys who normally represent the Board of Elections and the Department of Elections, Attorney General Herring assembled a multidisciplinary team of attorneys from his Civil Litigation and Public Safety Divisions, Solicitor General’s Office, and other divisions across the OAG, who were on standby, ready to jump into action at a moment’s notice should the need have arisen. The OAG also had lawyers in every corner of the Commonwealth who were prepared to go into court to handle any potential legal challenges.

 

Virginia also saw historic turnout during last year’s election, especially in early and absentee voting. This increase in voter participation was really possible in part because of Attorney General Herring's work to make voting as easy and safe as possible during this unprecedented election cycle by crafting agreements to waive the witness signature on absentee ballots, making it easier for disabled Virginians to vote safely at home, extending the voter registration deadline, and blocking the drastic operational changes at the USPS.

 

Last year’s election cycle brought numerous challenges that prompted Attorney General Herring and his team to develop solutions and put out guidance to make sure every Virginian had a safe, comfortable, easy voting experience, whether they chose to vote early absentee, early in person, or on Election Day.

 

Attorney General Herring and his team negotiated options to promote safe, secure voting for Virginians who could not or did not want to risk their health to vote in person including:

  • An agreement that waived the witness requirement for absentee ballots for Virginians who feared for their safety voting in person
  • An agreement that made it easier for Virginians with disabilities to participate in the election safely at home

 

Attorney General Herring also successfully blocked the Trump Administration's drastic operational changes to the U.S. Postal Service, when a federal judge granted his motion for preliminary injunction, explicitly saying in his order that, “at the heart of DeJoy’s and the Postal Service’s actions is voter disenfranchisement.”

 

Additionally, Attorney General Herring put a lot of emphasis on ensuring that Virginians felt comfortable and protected at polling places across the Commonwealth by:

 

Joining Attorney General Herring in filing today’s amicus brief are the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia. 

 

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