A coalition of voting rights groups on Friday sued a federal elections official who decided that residents of Alabama, Kansas and Georgia can no longer register to vote using a national form without providing proof of U.S. citizenship. The 224-page complaint filed in federal court, also named in the suit the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. It was brought by the League of Women Voters, Project Vote, the Georgia State Conference of the NAACP and others. Their complaint contends the action by executive director Brian Newby will hurt voter registration drives and deprive eligible voters of the right to vote in the presidential primary elections. It seeks a court order immediately blocking the changes to the federal voter registration form. “Voters should not have to face an obstacle course to participate and vote,” Elisabeth MacNamara, president of the League of Women Voters of the United States said in a news release.
Newby did not return an after-hours phone message left Friday at his office, and the commission’s spokesman did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment on the lawsuit.
But Newby, who took the job in November, has said he was within his authority and believed he did not have the discretion to decide which state instructions were ok and which were not.
Newby sent letters dated Jan. 29 to the three states that had requested the change, and the new instructions were immediately posted on the agency’s website. Under the new rules, any resident in those states who registers to vote using the federal form must show citizenship documentation — such as a birth certificate, naturalization papers or passport. In other states, no such documentation is needed to register. Voters need only sign a sworn statement.