California Attorneys sue to Extend Registration Deadline

Attorneys who support Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders on Friday filed a federal lawsuit hoping to get Monday’s registration deadline extended until June 7, the day that California voters go to the polls in the state’s ever increasingly important primary election.

“Mistakes are being made,” said William Simpich, an Oakland civil rights attorney who filed the lawsuit Friday, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The suit states:

The impact of failure to inform NPP voters (no party preference voters) of their right to obtain a “crossover ballot” and to vote in the Presidential primary is significant, as is the failure to inform party-affiliated voters of their right to re-register as no party preference voters and still receive the Presidential primary ballots of the Democratic, American Independent, and Libertarian parties. All Californians’ voting rights have been and will continue to be denied or unreasonably infringed upon due to the lack of oversight of the California Secretary of State and county Boards of Elections.

This action seeks declaratory and injunctive relief to redress the widespread and ongoing failure to provide information regarding the protected voting rights of “no party preference” voters to receive a Democratic, American Independent or Libertarian presidential ballot. Inadequate information has also been provided regarding the right of “no party preference voters” to personally deliver their application to vote by mail to the county board of elections office by May 31, 2016 in order to mail their ballot in by the last day of the primary on June 7.

“There’s mass confusion,” Simpich said in an interview on Saturday night. “This is a situation that really shouts out for some uniformity.”

The lawsuit was filed on behalf the Voting Rights Defense Project by Simpich and Attorney Stephen Jaffe. It makes the argument that complicated vote-by-mail procedures prevent voters who decline to choose a party—known as “no party preference” voters—from properly casting ballots in the state’s primaries.

Collaborating on the lawsuit is Election Justice, a national election integrity and voting rights organization which made international news with their recent suit over the voter roll purges prior to the New York Primary. “We are proud to support this effort in California as it represents a real chance for voters to become educated and empowered to exercise their rights,” Election Justice spokeswoman Shyla Nelson said. “We are seeing an unprecedented level of civic engagement in this year’s election, and with that, the exposure of many flaws in our electoral system. Election Justice is committed to fixing what’s broken and renewing the spirit of true democracy in the selection of our nation’s leaders.”

“It’s inconsistent,” Simpich told The Sacramento Bee, “Sometimes the information is there, sometimes it’s not. And sometimes the instructions are bad.”

Defendants named in the suit are California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, Chief of Alameda County Registrar of Voters, Tim Depuis and John Arntz, Director of the San Francisco Board of Elections.

The suit goes on to state:

Defendant Tim Depuis, the chief of the Alameda County Registrar of Voters, has engaged in a pattern and practice that will disenfranchise thousands of Alameda County voters. During the last two weeks, this Defendant distributed a series of notices to Alameda County voters that did not provide information that is required to be given to California voters pursuant to Elections Code Section 3000 et seq. Because of this failure to provide proper notice, these voters will be unable to vote for the candidate of their choice unless there is prompt and effective intervention by this court.

Both the Defendants Tim Depuis and John Arntz (chief of the San Francisco Department of Elections) distributed to the voters an electronic application to vote for mail on Depuis’ Oakland website and Artnz’s San Francisco website that violated Elections Code § 3006(c) and 3007.7(e). Both of these applications failed to provide the mandatory notice to all voters of their right to state no party preference; and, further, that a no party preference voter shall be provided with a Democratic, American Independent Party or a Libertarian Party Presidential primary ballot.

No court date has been set but a hearing is expected to be held before June 7.

View the lawsuit HERE

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G.A. Dunlap

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