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Case Name People First of Alabama v. Merrill VR-AL-0268
Docket / Court 2:20-cv-00619-AKK ( N.D. Ala. )
State/Territory Alabama
Case Type(s) Election/Voting Rights
Special Collection COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)
Attorney Organization NAACP Legal Defense Fund
NDRN/Protection & Advocacy Organizations
Southern Poverty Law Center
Case Summary
COVID-19 Summary: This lawsuit was filed by Alabama voters to temporarily enjoin Alabama’s voting law provisions during the COVID-19 pandemic. The plaintiffs challenged the witness and photo ID requirement, requiring absentee voters to obtain witness or notary signatures, and submit a photocopy ... read more >
COVID-19 Summary: This lawsuit was filed by Alabama voters to temporarily enjoin Alabama’s voting law provisions during the COVID-19 pandemic. The plaintiffs challenged the witness and photo ID requirement, requiring absentee voters to obtain witness or notary signatures, and submit a photocopy of their ID with their ballot. The plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief to enjoin enforcement of the Witness and ID requirement and to allow curbside voting during the primary, municipal, and general election in 2020. On June 15, the preliminary injunction was granted in part in favor of the plaintiffs, pertaining to the July 14 primary runoff. The defendants appealed to the Eleventh Circuit; the court denied the defendant’s motion for stay pending appeal on June 25. The defendants then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court which granted the stay on July 2.


On May 1, 2020, five voters and three organizations filed this class-action lawsuit against the State of Alabama to temporarily enjoin its voting law provisions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, the plaintiffs challenged Alabama’s witness requirement requiring absentee voters to sign their vote before a notary or two witnesses, and the ID application requirement, requiring absentee voters to submit a copy of their photo ID. The plaintiffs noted that Alabama is one of the only three states to require the absentee ballot to be notarized and one of the only 12 states that require an individual to submit an absentee ballot to have it witnessed. The plaintiffs also challenged Alabama’s prohibition curbside voting, which allows voters to cast their ballots in person without leaving their vehicles.

Filled in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, the plaintiffs sought declaratory relief under 28 U.S.C. §§ 2201-02 and injunctive relief to enjoin enforcement of the Witness and ID requirement and to allow curbside voting during the primary, municipal, and general election in 2020 under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12131, 52 U.S.C. §§ 10301, 10302(b) and 10501. The plaintiffs also sought an injunction requiring the defendants to accept otherwise valid absentee ballots missing a notary or two witnesses, and modify election materials accordingly to reflect the elimination of the challenged provisions. The plaintiffs were represented by the Southern Poverty Law Center, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program. The case was assigned to District Judge Abdul K. Kallon.

The plaintiffs alleged that the challenged provisions constituted an unreasonable burden on the fundamental right to vote in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and Sections 2, 3(b), and 201 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA). Specifically, the plaintiffs alleged that the Witness and ID requirements exposed voters to additional risk of infection by posing additional barriers to voting, which threatened to disenfranchise voters adhering to social distancing guidelines.

On June 15, the preliminary injunction was granted in part, enjoining the defendants from enforcing the witness requirement for voters who cannot safely meet the requirements due to underlying medical conditions identified by the CDC to increase the risk of COVID-19. 2020 WL 3207824. The photo ID requirement was also enjoined for voters over the age of 65 or those who could not safely obtain a copy of their photo ID, and the defendants were also enjoined from prohibiting curbside voting. The injunction was granted only part, granting relief as to the July 14 primary runoff, instead of all elections to be held in 2020, as requested by the plaintiffs.

On June 17, the Alabama Secretary of State filed an appeal to the Eleventh Circuit, contending that the challenged laws were necessary to preserve the legitimacy of upcoming elections by preventing voter fraud and safeguarding voter confidence. On the same day, the defendant filed an emergency motion to stay the June 15 order pending the appeal.

On June 25, the emergency motion for stay pending appeal was denied. 2020 WL 3478093. The defendants appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

On June 30, the parties entered into a settlement agreement as to defendant Circuit Clerk of Lee County -- the parties agreed to dismiss the case as to the Circuit Clerk, in exchange for the defendant's will compliance with the orders of the court regarding this lawsuit. The settlement agreement was approved the same day.

On July 2, in a 5-4 split decision, the Supreme Court granted a stay of the preliminary injunction pending the Eleventh Circuit appeal. 2020 WL 3604049. The case is ongoing.

Averyn Lee - 07/06/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief denied
Preliminary relief granted
Disability
disability, unspecified
Discrimination-basis
Disability (inc. reasonable accommodations)
General
Voting
Voting access
Medical/Mental Health
COVID-19 Mitigation Denied
COVID-19 Mitigation Granted
COVID-19 Mitigation Requested
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Voting
Election administration
Voter registration rules
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Voting Rights Act, unspecified, 52 U.S.C. § 10301 et seq (previously 42 U.S.C § 1973 et seq.)
Defendant(s) Circuit Clerk of Jefferson County
Absentee Election Manager of Mobile County
Circuit Clerk of Lee County
Deputy Circuit Clerk of the Bessemer Division of Jefferson County
Governor of the State of Alabama
Secretary of State of Alabama
Plaintiff Description five voters and three organizations (People First of Alabama, Greater Birmingham Ministries and the Alabama State Conference of the NAACP)
Indexed Lawyer Organizations NAACP Legal Defense Fund
NDRN/Protection & Advocacy Organizations
Southern Poverty Law Center
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
None yet
Source of Relief Litigation
None yet
Filed 05/01/2020
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
  People First of Alabama, et al. v. John Merrill, et al.
Southern Poverty Law Center
Date: May 1, 2020
By: Southern Poverty Law Center
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
2:20-cv-00619-AKK (N.D. Ala.)
VR-AL-0268-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/06/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief [ECF# 1]
VR-AL-0268-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/01/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Plaintiffs' Motion for a Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 15]
VR-AL-0268-0010.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/12/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum of Law in Support of Plaintiffs' Motion for a Preliminary Injunction (Part 1/6) [ECF# 16 (incl. 16-1 to 16-14)]
VR-AL-0268-0011.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/13/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum of Law in Support of Plaintiffs' Motion for a Preliminary Injunction (Part 2/6) [ECF# 16-15 to 16-37]
VR-AL-0268-0012.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/13/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum of Law in Support of Plaintiffs' Motion for a Preliminary Injunction (Part 3/6) [ECF# 16-37 to 16-38]
VR-AL-0268-0013.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/13/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum of Law in Support of Plaintiffs' Motion for a Preliminary Injunction (Part 5/6) [ECF# 16-43 to 16-47]
VR-AL-0268-0015.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/13/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum of Law in Support of Plaintiffs' Motion for a Preliminary Injunction (Part 6/6) [ECF# 16-47 to 16-49]
VR-AL-0268-0016.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/13/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Defendants' Opposition to Plaintiffs' Motion for Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 36]
VR-AL-0268-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/25/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Defendant Mary B. Roberson's Response to Plaintiff's Motion for Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 41]
VR-AL-0268-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/26/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Defendants Jacqueline Anderson-Smith and Karen Dunn Burks Response to Plaintiff's Motion for Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 45]
VR-AL-0268-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/01/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Plaintiffs' Reply in Support of Their Motion for a Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 46, 46-1]
VR-AL-0268-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/01/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Defendant Mary B. Roberson's Motion to Dismiss [ECF# 54, 54-1, 54-2]
VR-AL-0268-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/09/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion [ECF# 58] (2020 WL 3207824) (N.D. Ala.)
VR-AL-0268-0007.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 06/15/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Plaintiffs' Reply in Support of their Motion for a Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 65]
VR-AL-0268-0008.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/17/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Plaintiffs' Opposition to Defendant Roberson's Motion to Dismiss [ECF# 66]
VR-AL-0268-0009.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/17/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Settlement Agreement [ECF# 72]
VR-AL-0268-0018.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/20/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Emergency Application for Stay
VR-AL-0268-0019.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/29/2020
Source: Supreme Court website
Joint Motion for Entry of Settlement [ECF# 71 & 71-1]
VR-AL-0268-0017.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/30/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum of Law in Support of Plaintiffs' Motion for a Preliminary Injunction (Part 4/6) [ECF# 16-38 to 16-43]
VR-AL-0268-0014.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/01/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Reply in Support of Emergency Application for Stay
VR-AL-0268-0020.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/02/2020
Source: Supreme Court website
Response in Opposition to Emergency Application for Stay
VR-AL-0268-0021.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/02/2020
Source: Supreme Court website
Order in Pending Case
VR-AL-0268-0022.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/02/2020
Source: Supreme Court website
show all people docs
Judges Kallon, Abdul K. [Karim] (N.D. Ala.) show/hide docs
VR-AL-0268-0007 | VR-AL-0268-9000
Thomas, Clarence (D.C. Circuit, SCOTUS) show/hide docs
VR-AL-0268-0022
Plaintiff's Lawyers Abudu, Nancy G (Alabama) show/hide docs
VR-AL-0268-0001 | VR-AL-0268-0005 | VR-AL-0268-0008 | VR-AL-0268-0009 | VR-AL-0268-0010 | VR-AL-0268-0011 | VR-AL-0268-0012 | VR-AL-0268-0013 | VR-AL-0268-0014 | VR-AL-0268-0015 | VR-AL-0268-0016 | VR-AL-0268-0017 | VR-AL-0268-0018 | VR-AL-0268-0021 | VR-AL-0268-9000
Ifill, Sherrilyn (New York) show/hide docs
VR-AL-0268-0021
Lance, Steven (New York) show/hide docs
VR-AL-0268-0021 | VR-AL-0268-9000
Merle, Natasha C. (New York) show/hide docs
VR-AL-0268-0001 | VR-AL-0268-0005 | VR-AL-0268-0008 | VR-AL-0268-0009 | VR-AL-0268-0010 | VR-AL-0268-0011 | VR-AL-0268-0012 | VR-AL-0268-0013 | VR-AL-0268-0014 | VR-AL-0268-0015 | VR-AL-0268-0016 | VR-AL-0268-0017 | VR-AL-0268-0018 | VR-AL-0268-0021 | VR-AL-0268-9000
Nelson, Janai S. (New York) show/hide docs
VR-AL-0268-0021
Reed, Mahogane D (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
VR-AL-0268-0005 | VR-AL-0268-0008 | VR-AL-0268-0009 | VR-AL-0268-0017 | VR-AL-0268-0021 | VR-AL-0268-9000
Ross, Deuel (New York) show/hide docs
VR-AL-0268-0001 | VR-AL-0268-0005 | VR-AL-0268-0008 | VR-AL-0268-0009 | VR-AL-0268-0010 | VR-AL-0268-0011 | VR-AL-0268-0012 | VR-AL-0268-0013 | VR-AL-0268-0014 | VR-AL-0268-0015 | VR-AL-0268-0016 | VR-AL-0268-0017 | VR-AL-0268-0021 | VR-AL-0268-9000
Ryan, Jenny R (Alabama) show/hide docs
VR-AL-0268-0001 | VR-AL-0268-0005 | VR-AL-0268-0008 | VR-AL-0268-0009 | VR-AL-0268-0010 | VR-AL-0268-0011 | VR-AL-0268-0012 | VR-AL-0268-0013 | VR-AL-0268-0014 | VR-AL-0268-0015 | VR-AL-0268-0016 | VR-AL-0268-0017 | VR-AL-0268-0018 | VR-AL-0268-9000
Short, Caren Elaine (Georgia) show/hide docs
VR-AL-0268-0001 | VR-AL-0268-0005 | VR-AL-0268-0008 | VR-AL-0268-0009 | VR-AL-0268-0010 | VR-AL-0268-0011 | VR-AL-0268-0012 | VR-AL-0268-0013 | VR-AL-0268-0014 | VR-AL-0268-0015 | VR-AL-0268-0016 | VR-AL-0268-0017 | VR-AL-0268-0018 | VR-AL-0268-0021 | VR-AL-0268-9000
Spital, Samuel (New York) show/hide docs
VR-AL-0268-0021
Van Der Pol, William Jr. (Alabama) show/hide docs
VR-AL-0268-0001 | VR-AL-0268-0005 | VR-AL-0268-0008 | VR-AL-0268-0009 | VR-AL-0268-0010 | VR-AL-0268-0011 | VR-AL-0268-0012 | VR-AL-0268-0013 | VR-AL-0268-0014 | VR-AL-0268-0015 | VR-AL-0268-0016 | VR-AL-0268-0017 | VR-AL-0268-0018 | VR-AL-0268-0021 | VR-AL-0268-9000
Zampierin, Sara (Alabama) show/hide docs
VR-AL-0268-0001 | VR-AL-0268-0005 | VR-AL-0268-0008 | VR-AL-0268-0009 | VR-AL-0268-0010 | VR-AL-0268-0011 | VR-AL-0268-0012 | VR-AL-0268-0013 | VR-AL-0268-0014 | VR-AL-0268-0015 | VR-AL-0268-0016 | VR-AL-0268-0017 | VR-AL-0268-9000
Zaragoza, Liliana (New York) show/hide docs
VR-AL-0268-0001 | VR-AL-0268-0005 | VR-AL-0268-0008 | VR-AL-0268-0009 | VR-AL-0268-0010 | VR-AL-0268-0011 | VR-AL-0268-0012 | VR-AL-0268-0013 | VR-AL-0268-0014 | VR-AL-0268-0015 | VR-AL-0268-0016 | VR-AL-0268-0017 | VR-AL-0268-0018 | VR-AL-0268-0021 | VR-AL-0268-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Bowdre, Alexander Barrett (Alabama) show/hide docs
VR-AL-0268-0019 | VR-AL-0268-0020
Carroll, Donald McKinley (Alabama) show/hide docs
VR-AL-0268-0004 | VR-AL-0268-9000
Davis, James William (Alabama) show/hide docs
VR-AL-0268-0002 | VR-AL-0268-0019 | VR-AL-0268-0020 | VR-AL-0268-9000
Dungan, Aubrey Patrick (Alabama) show/hide docs
VR-AL-0268-0002 | VR-AL-0268-9000
Dyar, Robert F (Alabama) show/hide docs
VR-AL-0268-0002 | VR-AL-0268-9000
Engelhardt, Todd David (Alabama) show/hide docs
VR-AL-0268-0002 | VR-AL-0268-9000
Essig, Brandon Keith (Alabama) show/hide docs
VR-AL-0268-0003 | VR-AL-0268-0006 | VR-AL-0268-0017 | VR-AL-0268-0018 | VR-AL-0268-9000
LaCour, Edmund G (Alabama) show/hide docs
VR-AL-0268-0019 | VR-AL-0268-0020
Lawson, Theodore A III (Alabama) show/hide docs
VR-AL-0268-0004 | VR-AL-0268-9000
Marshall, Steve (Alabama) show/hide docs
VR-AL-0268-0019 | VR-AL-0268-0020
Messick, Misty Shawn Fairbanks (Alabama) show/hide docs
VR-AL-0268-0019 | VR-AL-0268-0020 | VR-AL-0268-9000
Ross, Jay M (Alabama) show/hide docs
VR-AL-0268-0002 | VR-AL-0268-0018 | VR-AL-0268-9000
Sewell, Jeffrey M. (Alabama) show/hide docs
VR-AL-0268-0003 | VR-AL-0268-0006
Sewell, Robert Jackson (Alabama) show/hide docs
VR-AL-0268-0017 | VR-AL-0268-0018 | VR-AL-0268-9000
Sinclair, Winfield J. (Alabama) show/hide docs
VR-AL-0268-0002 | VR-AL-0268-0019 | VR-AL-0268-0020 | VR-AL-0268-9000
Smith, Brenton Merrill (Alabama) show/hide docs
VR-AL-0268-0002 | VR-AL-0268-0019 | VR-AL-0268-0020 | VR-AL-0268-9000
Weber, Jeremy Stone (Alabama) show/hide docs
VR-AL-0268-0002 | VR-AL-0268-0019 | VR-AL-0268-0020 | VR-AL-0268-9000
Other Lawyers Brom, Steven M (Alabama) show/hide docs
VR-AL-0268-9000
Green, Tyler R (Virginia) show/hide docs
VR-AL-0268-9000
Norris, Cameron T. (Virginia) show/hide docs
VR-AL-0268-9000

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