The Justice Department announced today that it has entered into a proposed consent decree to settle a voting rights lawsuit with the Board of Elections of Oneida County, New York.
The proposed consent decree was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York in conjunction with a lawsuit brought by the Justice Department. The Justice Department’s complaint alleges that, before the November 2020 federal general election, the Oneida County Board of Elections failed to process approximately 2,400 timely-submitted voter registration applications completed through state motor vehicle offices and failed to ensure that voter registration applicants received timely notice of the disposition of their applications, in violation of Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA). The complaint also alleges that the State violated Section 302 of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) by summarily rejecting nearly 1,800 provisional ballots cast by Oneida County voters in the November 2020 federal election without verifying the voters’ eligibility and without counting those provisional ballots cast by eligible voters.
The Justice Department gave notice to the Oneida County Board of Elections of its intent to bring suit under the NVRA and HAVA on March 23, and the parties worked collaboratively to achieve this agreement. The parties’ consent decree, which must still be approved by the court, provides that the Oneida County Board of Elections will develop and implement uniform and nondiscriminatory policies and procedures to ensure that election officials review and process all timely submitted voter registration applications in accordance with the NVRA. In addition, the board will train all poll officials and other election personnel regarding the provisional balloting requirements of HAVA. Finally, the board will provide periodic reports to the Justice Department regarding compliance with the proposed consent decree.
“We will continue using critical federal voting rights laws to help ensure that eligible voters enjoy access to the ballot box,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The National Voter Registration Act requires states to ensure that voter registration applications submitted before the deadline for federal elections are timely processed, and that qualified voters are promptly included on voter rolls for federal elections. The Help America Voter Act ensures that registered voters who have been left off voting lists can cast provisional ballots that will be promptly verified and counted if the voters are found to be eligible. I am pleased that the Oneida County Board of Elections has worked with the Department of Justice and agreed to measures that will protect these vital rights and establish safeguards to ensure compliance with the law in future federal elections.”
“We join the Civil Rights Division in bringing this important lawsuit under the National Voter Registration Act and the Help America Vote Act, and appreciate that Oneida County has worked with the Justice Department to ensure that all Oneida County residents enjoy the voting rights and protections afforded to them,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Antoinette T. Bacon of the Northern District of New York.
More information about the National Voter Registration Act, the Help America Vote Act and other federal voting rights laws is available on the Department of Justice website at https:www.justice.gov/crt/voting-section.