Voters File Federal Court Challenge to Voter Intimidation Efforts in Virginia
Voter intimidation violates Ku Klux Klan Act, created in 1871 to protect voters
from being harassed when attempting to register or vote
ALEXANDRIA, VA – Voters subjected to intimidation efforts and false accusations of illegal voting in Virginia filed a federal lawsuit today, citing violations of the Ku Klux Klan Act and the Voting Rights Act, as well as state defamation laws. The suit was filed in Virginia’s Eastern District federal court. Plaintiffs include the Richmond Council for the League of United Latin American Citizens, as well as four individual voters who were recklessly accused of committing election-related crimes in reports published by the Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF). The defendants in the case are PILF and J. Christian Adams, the organization’s President and General Counsel.
The Southern Coalition for Social Justice and Protect Democracy represent plaintiffs in the case, along with the law firm of Emery Celli Brinkerhoff and Abady LLP and pro bono attorneys.
“The law guarantees that all eligible Americans may participate in elections free from intimidation or libel,” said Allison Riggs, Senior Voting Rights Attorney at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. “It’s troubling that there’s a growing pattern of voter intimidation across the country that targets everyday, private Americans with tactics that bully them and discourage them from registering to vote and casting a ballot for the candidate of their choice. Such bullying damages the foundation of our democracy and represents the kind of voter intimidation that civil rights laws are designed to eradicate.”
Plaintiffs’ claims relate to two reports released by PILF: Alien Invasion in Virginia and Alien Invasion II. The first report was published in September 2016 and accuses voters of committing multiple felonies, from illegally registering to vote, to casting an ineligible ballot. The follow-up report, accusing even more voters, was released in May 2017.
“Defendants were wildly reckless in the statements they made about our clients. They should have known that the people they were accusing of felonies were, in fact, eligible voters,” said Andrew G. Celli, Jr. and Alanna Kaufman of the law firm of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP. “Our clients have committed no crime. Their names have been smeared and their personal contact information spread widely. This is a modern, covert, and insidious effort to intimidate voters. It must be remedied.”
The lawsuit asserts that defendants’ conduct “violates both the Voting Rights Act, see 52 U.S.C. § 10307, and the Ku Klux Klan Act, see 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3), because it intimidates constitutionally eligible voters, like Plaintiffs, into not exercising their right to vote.” (p. 5, LULAC of Richmond v. Public Interest Legal Foundation)
“Regardless of whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, the importance of protecting Americans’ right to vote free of intimidation should be something that all Americans can agree on,” said Cameron Kistler of Protect Democracy. “Our democracy depends on it.”
The complaint in LULAC of Richmond v. Public Interest Legal Foundation can be found at https://southerncoalition.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/LULAC-of-Richmond-v.-PILF.pdf
The Southern Coalition for Social Justice is a non-partisan legal organization that partners with communities of color and economically disadvantaged communities in the south to defend and advance their political, social and economic rights.
Protect Democracy is a non-partisan organization dedicated to preventing our democracy from declining into a more authoritarian form of government.
Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP is a litigation boutique that focuses on civil rights, commercial, criminal, and ethics matters.