Voting Rights

AFJ Action Campaign is tracking the votes of every senator up for reelection in 2020 on Trump’s worst of the worst judges. Each senator who voted to confirm these judges owns the decisions—these decisions are harming people every day. See how your senator voted for some of the worst of the worst judges here.

In Esshaki v. Whitmer, Sixth Circuit judge John Bush voted to halt parts of a district court order that eased Michigan’s petition signature requirements for electoral candidates during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In NAACP v. Gwinnett County, Georgia district court judge Steven Grimberg rejected a request to force Gwinnett County to open its satellite early voting sites in early March for the presidential primary election. According to Grimberg, “Just because the right to vote is fundamental does not mean you have the right to vote in any particular manner.”

In Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials v. Gwinnett County, Georgia district court judge William M. Ray II rejected a claim brought by civil rights groups that Gwinnett County must send absentee ballot applications in Spanish to residents who are not fluent in English. The federal Voting Rights Act requires bilingual ballot access when more than 5% or 10,000 citizens of voting age are members of a single language minority and have difficulty speaking English. Despite the fact that 21% of the total population in Gwinnett is Hispanic, Judge Ray ruled that the law did not require the county to send out applications in Spanish.

In Arizonans for Fair Elections v. Hobbs, Arizona district court judge Dominic Lanza rejected a request to allow ballot initiative organizers to collect the signatures they need through an online portal during the pandemic, despite conceding that “[i]t is undeniable that the COVID-19 pandemic is currently wreaking havoc on initiative committees’ ability to gather signatures.”

In Greater Birmingham Ministries v. Secretary of State for the State of Alabama, Eleventh Circuit judge Elizabeth Branch ruled that Alabama’s strict voter ID law is not racially discriminatory. In dissent, Judge Gayles noted that Alabama has a “deep and troubled history of racial discrimination,” and that in-person voter fraud, the issue that the law purportedly sought to address, is “virtually non-existent.”

In Miller v. Thurston, Circuit judge Steven Grasz wrote an opinion reversing a district court’s ruling to relax Arkansas’ in-person signature requirements for state constitutional amendment petitions during the COVID-19 pandemic. The lawsuit was brought by two registered voters, one who was undergoing chemotherapy for stage IV cancer, and another who lives in a retirement community with 400 other high-risk residents.

In Trump v. Boockvar, Pennsylvania district court judge Nicholas Ranjan agreed to fast-track the Trump campaigns lawsuit against mail-in-voting procedures in Pennsylvania. The lawsuit challenged procedures put in place by Pennsylvania’s Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar in order to ensure access to the vote during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Mays v. LaRose, Sixth Circuit judge Amul Thapar voted to reverse a lower court decision that extended the deadline for requesting an absentee ballot for those who had been unexpectedly arrested within three days of an election and were unable to cast their ballot while detained in jail.

Although not in the majority, in Alabama State Conference of the NAACP v. State of Alabama, Eleventh Circuit Judge Elizabeth Branch argued that people and organizations cannot sue states for violations of the VRA.

In Thomas v. Bryant, Fifth Circuit judge Don Willett argued in dissent that the court should reverse a finding that a district in Mississippi had been racially gerrymandered to unlawfully dilute the votes of Black residents under the VRA. A majority of judges on the Fifth Circuit, which includes five other Trump appointees, has since voted to rehear the case.

In Fusilier v. Landry, Fifth Circuit judge Kyle Duncan dissented and would have voted to reverse a district court decision that had found that Black voters in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana had diluted voting power in state court elections and were unable to elect a judge of their choice to the trial court bench. Duncan would have argued the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue.


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