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Citizenship Question for Voter Registration Sparks State-Based Civil Rights Lawsuits


A huge civil rights issue has emerged at both the federal and state level regarding the citizenship question and review as part of the 2020 census. Some minority organizations now found themselves having to sue their state officials over what they call an “election-related witch hunt” designed to intimidate voters by asking them to prove citizenship.

Legal Violations

Voter rights are protected under the federal Voting Rights Act, which explicitly prohibits intimidation of voters. According to plaintiffs in this case, the state flagged thousands of individuals based on data that is suspicious, and likely included a significant number of individuals who should not be included, in particular, a number of people who have become naturalized citizens since obtaining their driver’s license or ID. This includes legal permanent residents—i.e. green card holders—who, by law, are not required to update their status once that they have become naturalized citizens. In 2017 alone, more than 52,000 individuals were approved to become naturalized citizens.

Also by law, counties are not allowed to automatically revoke a voter’s registration simply because they receive a list like this from state officials. They will sometimes verify the eligibility of those flagged, which involves sending notices asking that these individuals send in proof of citizenship within 30 days. Still, a number of civil rights legal experts would note that this arguably risks violating federal law because it technically involves scrutinizing voters flagged by the state.

The 2020 Census Citizenship Question

Meanwhile, others all over the country are concerned about the 2020 Census and its citizenship question. Citizenship questions like those included in the Census endanger an accurate count, which then endangers communities of color and immigrant communities by depriving them of the resources and services that they need; simply due to their ethnicities. Specifically, the census is responsible for distributing billions of dollars in federal funding, as well as allocating political power to communities all over the country from 2020 to 2030, and this question arguably threatens millions of African-Americans, Latinos and others being “missed” in the count, including immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean.

Although there have been a number of legal victories in some states over the issue, still, many are calling on Congress to call for the question to be removed, once and for all, in order to ensure that the necessary clarity is provided to the U.S. Census Bureau, and the question is removed in every state.

Contact Our Florida Civil Rights Attorneys to Find Out More

If you have been denied your most basic civil right to vote, contact our experienced Florida civil rights attorneys at the Baez Law Firm to find out how we will work to protect your civil rights.


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