New York Attorney General Letitia James today continued her efforts to stand up for voters’ rights, co-leading a coalition of 17 attorneys general in filing an amicus brief to block a voter-suppression law in Florida. The coalition’s brief, filed in League of Women Voters of Florida v. Lee, argues that Florida’s new law imposes unlawful and unconstitutional voting restrictions on the use of drop boxes to return absentee ballots. Attorney General James and the coalition explain in the amicus brief that Florida’s law intentionally discriminates against minority voters and violates the Voting Rights Act and the right to vote as protected by the U.S. Constitution in the First, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments.
“Free and fair access to voting is foundational to our democracy,” said Attorney General James. “Efforts by other states to put up roadblocks and keep citizens from the polls harm the entire nation and must be confronted. Every voter has a right to have their voice heard and respected by those in power. My office will continue to fight against voter suppression efforts and to work with my fellow attorneys general to stand up for the rights of all Americans.”
Following the high turnout Florida experienced during the 2020 election, the state passed SB 90, which, among other things, severely reduces voters’ access to drop boxes. The law was immediately challenged in court by several organizations and individual voters seeking to block it from going into effect.
In the amicus brief –– filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit –– the coalition supports the argument that SB 90 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 coalition also argues that it is possible to prevent fraud and promote voter confidence without constricting the right to vote. The brief concludes by urging the Court of Appeals to affirm the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida’s permanent injunction against enforcement of SB 90’s drop box provisions.
Attorney General James has been an outspoken advocate for New York voters, and has been instrumental in efforts to expand voters’ rights and access to the polls. The Office of the Attorney General has an Election Protection Hotline and works to inform voters to ensure they are able to report issues or if they experience problems. Earlier this month, Attorney General James announced a settlement with robocalling platform Message Communications, Inc. (Message Communications) for its involvement in sending out an illegal robocall designed to prevent Black New Yorkers from voting by mail ahead of the 2020 election. In May 2021, Attorney General James filed a lawsuit against the Rensselaer County Board of Elections (BOE) for failing to provide county voters in with adequate and equitable access to early voting poll sites, as required by New York’s Early Voting law. In August 2021, the court ruled in favor of Attorney General James’ lawsuit and ordered the BOE to select new early voting poll sites. Leading up to the 2020 primary elections, Attorney General James called for automatic absentee voting due to the pandemic and need to protect voters, and following the November election, the Attorney General issued an alert to ensure absentee voters were aware of their rights in case there was an issue with their ballots.
This amicus brief is a continuation of efforts by Attorney General James to protect voters’ rights and challenge restrictive voting laws throughout the nation. Previously in this case, Attorney General James filed an amicus brief to support plaintiffs at the summary judgment stage in the District Court. Attorney General James has also successfully advocated against unfair voting restrictions and illegal efforts to deter voting in New York and across the country, including filing lawsuits against the Trump Administration’s for undermining the U.S. Postal service in an effort to block mail-in voting in the 2020 election, filing an amicus brief in a lawsuit brought forward against a similar discriminatory Georgia law, and calling on Congress to protect the integrity of America’s elections from “persistent threats” from Russia and other bad actors.
Joining Attorney General James in filing this brief are the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Washington, and the District of Columbia.
This amicus brief was prepared by Assistant Solicitor General Andrea Trento, Deputy Solicitor General Judith Vale, and Solicitor General Barbara D. Underwood –– all of the Division for Appeals and Opinions.