|Valdez v. Duran|
Citing clear evidence that New Mexico public assistance agencies and motor vehicle offices had violated their federally mandated responsibility to offer voter registration opportunities to tens of thousands of New Mexicans each year, Project Vote and its partner voting rights groups filed suit against officials in New Mexico for violations of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA).
Plaintiffs included Celia Valdez, Graciela Grajeda, Jesse Rodriguez, and Shawna Allers. They are all residents of New Mexico that applied for benefits or a driver license or identification, but were denied the opportunity to register to vote or update their registration. The plaintiffs were represented by voting rights groups Project Vote, Dēmos, and the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, as well as by the laws firms of Freedman Boyd Hollander Goldberg& Ives, DLA Piper U.S., and Schwartz, Lichten and Bright. Defendants named in the suit include New Mexico’s Secretary of State, Mary Herrera, and officials from the New Mexico Human Services Department, the New Mexico Motor Vehicle Division, and the New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department.
The complaint alleged that four New Mexico residents were denied the opportunity to register to vote when they went to a state agency to obtain public assistance benefits or obtain a driver’s license or state identification card.
The case was settled in February 2011 after the U.S. District Court ruled that New Mexico's long-standing policy of distributing voter registration forms only to those public assistance clients who affirmatively ask for them violates the National Voter Registration Act.
In July 2011, New Mexico appealed the U.S. District Court’s ruling, and Project Vote and its partners filed a response brief on September 16, 2011.
On September 23, 2011, the United States Department of Justice filed an amicus brief in support of the District Court ruling. In the brief, the Justice Department asserts that New Mexico's distribution policy was illegal, and that the plain language and legislative history of the NVRA requires that agencies distribute the voter registration application to clients with every application for benefits, re-certification, and change-of-address.
The plaintiffs won the appeal on February 21, 2012, confirming the District Court's opinion that public assistance agencies must provide voter registration applications when a client does not decline in writing to receive one.
Original Complaint and Exhibits. July 2009.
Press Release. July 2009
Memorandum Opinion and Order. December 21, 2010.
Consent Order (of Section 7 NVRA claims). February 24, 2011.
Settlement Agreement (of Section 5 NVRA claims). July 1, 2011.
Tenth Circuit Court Opinion - February 12, 2012
Press Release - February 22, 2012
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