Today, the Denver District Court accepted an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief filed by Ethics Watch in a Help America Vote Act (HAVA) case arising out of the 2010 election in Saguache County. The suit was filed by Marilyn Marks against Secretary of State Scott Gessler after the Secretary of State’s office dismissed her HAVA complaint for lack of standing.
HAVA requires states that accept federal funding under that act to establish administrative procedures allowing “any person” to file a complaint. Marks alleges that the Secretary of State’s office dismissed her complaint without a hearing, relying on a state statute. Marks argues that the federal statute must control.
Ethics Watch’s brief supports the standing of “any person” to file a HAVA complaint. Addressing the public policy behind HAVA’s private-party complaint procedure, Ethics Watch argued:
“Laws such as HAVA . . . serve a critical function in ensuring smooth functioning of the electoral process. Restricting the class of persons who may file complaints to those who witnessed or are aggrieved may allow violations to go unaddressed because those who could file a complaint lack the wherewithal to do so or are intimidated into silence. Nonprofits such as Ethics Watch or civic-minded individuals such as Ms. Marks have an important role to play in making sure that private-party enforcement processes do not fail for lack of a private party willing and able to file a complaint. Congress’ decision to extend the right to file a HAVA complaint to “any person who believes there is a violation” helps insure that the act is effectively enforced.”