A federal judge has ruled against the Justice Department, which was trying to block the U.S. Election Assistance Commission from instructing Alabama, Georgia and Kansas residents that they must comply with new laws that require them to show proof-of-citizenship when registering to vote.
Alabama, Georgia and Kansas are among the states that have passed new voter proof-of-citizenship laws in recent years, and are implementing the laws during the 2016 election cycle. The Justice Department had sided with the NAACP and the League of Women Voters in seeking a temporary restraining order on the Election Assistance Commission, but U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia Judge Richard Leon denied the request for the temporary restraining order Tuesday.
The temporary restraining order would have been in effect until March 9, when the district court is scheduled to hear arguments on the NAACP and League of Women Voters seeking a preliminary injunction.
Leon wrote in a four-page order that because “the registration deadlines for the Alabama and Georgia primaries and for the Kansas Republican Caucus had already passed at the time this TRO motion was filed … and that the effects of the [EAC’s] actions on the ongoing registration process for the Kansas Democratic Caucus … are uncertain at best, plaintiffs have not demonstrated they will suffer irreparable harm” before the scheduled March 9 hearing.
Leon was also “not yet convinced that plaintiffs have demonstrated a substantial likelihood of success on the merits and looks forward to the benefit of full, adversarial briefing on the complex and important issues this case presents.”
Hans von Spakovsky, a former DOJ lawyer and former commissioner at the Federal Election Commission, has been following the case closely for National Review.
“Everybody should know, the federal government says to employers ‘you can’t employ anybody’ unless they provide proof that they’re citizens,'” von Spakovsky explained on Mark Levin’s radio program Tuesday night.
“The states pass this great law, and they sent a request to the EAC, because that’s the agency that’s in charge of the federal one-page voter registration form. They said, ‘Look, please change the instructions so that any of the residents in our states that use that federal form to register to vote, they’re told they’re going to have to provide proof of citizenship,'” von Spakovsky explained.
“That happened three weeks ago and immediately the League of Women Voters, the NAACP and these other organizations all sued the EAC, saying, ‘You can’t do that. That’s a violation of the law.'”
“The Justice Department’s job is to defend federal agencies when they are sued like this. Instead, on Monday of this week a hearing had been scheduled in federal court in Washington before Judge Richard Leon because the plaintiffs were seeking a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction.”
According to von Spakovsky, on Monday morning the DOJ filed a pleading with the court saying they were willing to agree to anything the plaintiffs wanted, including consenting to a temporary constraining order and a preliminary injunction.
“And they had told the agency that not only would they not defend them, but they refused to allow the agency to hire its own lawyer,” said von Spakovsky, noting that Judge Leon was “clearly shocked” by DOJ’s behavior.
“Normally in a hearing like this each side gets equal time. Well, [the judge] gave the plaintiffs who tried to get the court order 20 minutes to argue the case and then he turned to the Justice Department and said, ‘Well, I’m only giving you five minutes, because I know you agree with everything the plaintiffs are saying,'” explained von Spakovsky.
Judge Leon then granted the motion of Secretary of State of Kansas Kris Kobach and the Public Interest Legal Foundation’s Christian Adams, to both intervene in the case and defend the federal agency.
“So we have state officials and a private group doing what the Justice Department should have been doing,” noted von Spakovsky.