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Case Name Thomas v. Andino VR-SC-0078
Docket / Court 3:20-cv-01552 ( D.S.C. )
State/Territory South Carolina
Case Type(s) Election/Voting Rights
Special Collection COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)
Attorney Organization ACLU Chapters (any)
ACLU National (all projects)
NAACP Legal Defense Fund
Case Summary
NOTE: This case is being tracked in close to real time by the Stanford/MIT Healthy Elections Project. So for more current information, see their tracker. COVID-19 Summary: This is an action brought by four individuals facing ... read more >
NOTE: This case is being tracked in close to real time by the Stanford/MIT Healthy Elections Project. So for more current information, see their tracker. COVID-19 Summary: This is an action brought by four individuals facing a heightened risk of contracting COVID-19 and the Family Unit, a non-profit organization, against the enforcement of South Carolina’s witness signature requirement and the excuse requirement. On May 12, the South Carolina General Assembly passed legislation allowing all qualified South Carolina voters to vote by absentee ballot for the June primaries. On May 25, the court granted the plaintiffs’ preliminary injunction motions in part, granting relief as to the witness requirement. On September 18, the Witness Requirement was enjoined for the November 2020 General Election in a separate case, and the district court stayed the case. The defendants sought reconsideration.


On April 22, four individuals facing a heightened risk of contracting COVID-19 and the Family Unit, a non-profit organization, filed an action in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina against the enforcement of South Carolina’s witness requirement and the excuse requirement, which were required in order to vote by an absentee ballot. Represented by the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation (ACLU), the ACLU of South Carolina, and the NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund, the plaintiffs brought this action against the South Carolina State Election Commission and the Governor of South Carolina. They sought sought declaratory and injunctive relief under 42 U.S.C § 1983 for violations of the First and Fourteenth Amendments, as well as the Voting Rights Act, 52 U.S.C. §§ 10301, 10302(b), and 10501. Specifically, the plaintiffs alleged that enforcement of South Carolina’s witness signature requirement during the pandemic posed an unconstitutional barrier to voting and that the exclusive category of "persons qualified to vote by absentee ballot," did not include voters fearful of COVID-19 transmission. The plaintiffs alleged that the two requirements threatened to disenfranchise thousands of eligible South Carolina voters and that COVID-19 would have a disproportionate impact on older populations, voters with disabilities, and African-American voters. The plaintiffs sought a permanent injunction prohibiting the defendants from enforcing the requirements during COVID-19, as well as modification of election materials to reflect the elimination of the requirements before the June 2020 primaries. The case was assigned to Judge Michelle Childs.

On April 28, the plaintiffs filed a motion for preliminary injunction to enjoin enforcement of the two requirements, include self-isolation as an excuse exempting the witness requirement and enter an expedited schedule requiring the defendants to respond within seven days. The motion to enter an expedite the schedule was granted in part, but the specific schedule proposed by the plaintiff was denied.

The South Carolina Republican Party (SCRP) filed a motion to intervene alleging voter fraud concerns on May 1. On the same day, the Protection and Advocacy for People with Disabilities, an independent non-profit corporation, requested to file an amicus brief. The motion to file an amicus brief was granted on May 6. And, on May 8, SCRP’s motion to intervene was granted. 2020 WL 2306615.

On May 11, the defendants and the SCRP each submitted a motion opposing the preliminary injunction.

Meanwhile, another action was filed by individuals and the South Carolina Democratic Party on May 7, challenging the absentee ballot requirement in South Carolina against the same defendants. The Middleton plaintiffs sought a preliminary injunction enjoining the witness requirement, election day cutoff, and the absentee ballot age restriction limiting the categorical prohibition of all voters under 65 from casting a mailed absentee ballot.

On May 12, the South Carolina General Assembly passed legislation allowing all qualified South Carolina voters to vote by absentee ballot for the June 9 primary and the June 23 runoff election. Two days later, the court determined that the injunctive relief sought by both Thomas and Middleton plaintiffs would be limited to the June 2020 primaries, as the defendants did not receive proper notice to prepare arguments regarding elections following the June 2020 primaries.

On May 15, there was a consolidated hearing to address the pending motions for preliminary injunctions in both the Thomas and Middleton cases, with the remaining issues limited to the June primaries.

On May 25, the court granted the preliminary injunction motions pertaining to the witness signature requirement, to be applied only for the June 2020 primaries. 2020 WL 2617329. The defendants were also ordered to immediately and publicly inform South Carolina voters of the elimination of the witness requirement.

On July 13, the plaintiffs filed an amended complaint, adding the South Carolina State Conference of the NAACP as plaintiff while dropping one plaintiff. In addition, the plaintiffs withdrew the claim alleging that the witness requirement violated Section 201 of the Voting Rights Act, while adding the claim that the requirement discriminates against the plaintiffs in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). On July 24, the SCRP sought to re-intervene for the amended complaint. On August 4, the court noted that they had already allowed SCRP to intervene and that intervention is still in effect.

On August 10, 3 individual plaintiffs, The Family Unit, and the South Carolina State Conference of the NAACP voluntarily dismissed the case. The same day, the defendant and the SCRP both filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiffs lack standing and that none of the requirements violate the Constitution, the VRA, or the ADA. On August 11, the Attorney General of South Carolina sought to file an amicus brief for the case.

On August 12, Jay Lucas, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and Harvey Peeler, the President of the Senate, sought to intervene, which was granted on August 24. 2020 WL 4934305. The intervening defendants submitted responses in support of motions for summary judgment, arguing that determining how to conduct South Carolina's elections is a legislative function, not a judicial one, and that the challenged provisions of South Carolina law are lawful.

On August 14, the parties stipulated the dismiss without prejudice the Governor of South Carolina as a defendant.

On September 15, 2020, the South Carolina General Assembly passed legislation suspending the Excuse Requirement by allowing all qualified voters to vote by absentee ballot for the November 2020 General Election due to the current state of emergency. Three days later the court enjoined the Witness Requirement for all South Carolina voters in the upcoming November 2020 General Election in the Middleton case. In light of the suspension of the challenged provisions for the November 2020 General Election, the district court stayed the case. 2020 WL 5593847. The court instructed that the plaintiffs may request to lift the stay when the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic or future statewide elections in South Carolina are sufficiently determinable. The defendants sought reconsideration of the stay, arguing that staying the case on grounds that the Middleton injunction resolved the issues to be tried in this case, would effectively grant the Thomas plaintiffs their requested relief "without having to ever prove anything at all . . . [which is] unjust and an abuse of discretion."

The plaintiffs sought to consolidate the current case with Middleton v. Andino, however, the court denied the motion on September 22, reasoning that a district court does not have jurisdiction to consolidate an action before it with an action pending before an appellate court.

The case is ongoing.

Averyn Lee - 09/22/2020


compress summary

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Equal Protection
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief granted
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
Disability
disability, unspecified
Discrimination-basis
Age discrimination
Disability (inc. reasonable accommodations)
Race discrimination
General
Voting
Voting access
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Race
Black
Voting
Election administration
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111 et seq.
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Voting Rights Act, section 2, 52 U.S.C. § 10301 (previously 42 U.S.C. § 1973)
Defendant(s) Governor of South Carolina
South Carolina State Election Commission
Plaintiff Description Four individuals seeking to vote by mail during the COVID-19 pandemic
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU Chapters (any)
ACLU National (all projects)
NAACP Legal Defense Fund
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
Source of Relief Litigation
Order Duration 2020 - n/a
Filed 04/22/2020
Case Ongoing Yes
Case Listing VR-SC-0079 : Middleton v. Andino (D.S.C.)
Additional Resources
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  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
  Thomas v. Andino
ACLU of South Carolina
By: ACLU of South Carolina
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
3:20-cv-01552 (D.S.C.)
VR-SC-0078-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/27/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint for Injunctive and Declaratory Relief [ECF# 1, 1-1, 1-2]
VR-SC-0078-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/22/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Plaintiffs' Motion For A Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 7 (& 7-1 through 7-23)]
VR-SC-0078-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/28/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
South Carolina Republican Party's Motion to Intervene [ECF# 11, 11-1]
VR-SC-0078-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/01/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Plaintiffs' Opposition to Motion to Intervene of the South Carolina Republican Party [ECF# 22]
VR-SC-0078-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/05/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
South Carolina Republican Party's Reply in Support of Motion to Intervene [ECF# 28]
VR-SC-0078-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/06/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Brief of Amicus Curiae Protection and Advocacy For People With Disabilities, Inc. in Support of Plaintiffs' Complaint for Injunctive and Declaratory Relief [ECF# 34]
VR-SC-0078-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/06/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order and Opinion [ECF# 39] (2020 WL 2306615) (D.S.C.)
VR-SC-0078-0007.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 05/08/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
State Election Commission Defendants' Answer to Complaint [ECF# 44]
VR-SC-0078-0008.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/11/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
State Election Commission Defendants' Opposition To Motion For Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 46 (& 46-1 through 46-8)]
VR-SC-0078-0009.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/11/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Statement of Interest of the United States Concerning Section 201 of the Voting Rights Act [ECF# 47, 47-1]
VR-SC-0078-0010.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/11/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Answer [ECF# 49]
VR-SC-0078-0011.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/11/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Intervenor-Defendant South Carolina Republican Party's Response in Opposition to Plaintiffs' Motion for Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 50]
VR-SC-0078-0012.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/11/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Governor McMaster's Answer to Plaintiffs' Complaint [ECF# 51]
VR-SC-0078-0013.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/11/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Amicus Memorandum of Attorney General Alan Wilson [ECF# 53]
VR-SC-0078-0016.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/12/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Reply Brief in Support of Plaintiffs' Motion for Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 55]
VR-SC-0078-0014.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/13/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Order and Opinion Granting in Part Motion for Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 65] (2020 WL 2617329) (D.S.C.)
VR-SC-0078-0015.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 05/25/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
First Amended Complaint for Injunctive and Declaratory Relief [ECF# 76]
VR-SC-0078-0017.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/13/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Election Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF# 108 (incl. 108-1 to 108-17)]
VR-SC-0078-0018.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/10/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Intervenor-Defendant South Carolina Republican Party's Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF# 109 (incl. 109-1 to 109-8)]
VR-SC-0078-0019.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/10/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order and Opinion [ECF# 140] (2020 WL 4934305) (D.S.C.)
VR-SC-0078-0020.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 08/24/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
President Peeler's Response in Support of Motions for Summary Judgment [ECF# 144]
VR-SC-0078-0021.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/26/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order and Opinion [ECF# 178] (2020 WL 5593847) (D.S.C.)
VR-SC-0078-0023.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 09/18/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Motion to Reconsider and Lift Stay or Enter Judgment in Favor of the Defendants and Intervenor-Defendants [ECF# 182 (& 182-1 and 182-2)]
VR-SC-0078-0022.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/22/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
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Judges Childs, Julianna Michelle (D.S.C.) show/hide docs
VR-SC-0078-0007 | VR-SC-0078-0015 | VR-SC-0078-0020 | VR-SC-0078-0023 | VR-SC-0078-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Burns, Kyle William (New York) show/hide docs
VR-SC-0078-9000
Cepeda Derieux, Adriel I. (New York) show/hide docs
VR-SC-0078-0014 | VR-SC-0078-0017 | VR-SC-0078-9000
Cohoon, Jack Emerson (South Carolina) show/hide docs
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Dunn, Susan K. (South Carolina) show/hide docs
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Hauss, Brian M. (New York) show/hide docs
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Ho, Dale E. (New York) show/hide docs
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Houghton-Larsen, Marie Anne (New York) show/hide docs
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Jason, Kevin Eli (New York) show/hide docs
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Lakin, Sophia L. (New York) show/hide docs
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Lee, Theresa J. (New York) show/hide docs
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Lieb, Peter M (New York) show/hide docs
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Morris, John Z (New York) show/hide docs
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Robinson, LaRue Lawrence (Illinois) show/hide docs
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Rosborough, Davin McKay (New York) show/hide docs
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Ross, Deuel (New York) show/hide docs
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Silvertrust, Skyler (Illinois) show/hide docs
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Syed, Ihaab I (New York) show/hide docs
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Defendant's Lawyers Barber, Hamilton Bohanon (South Carolina) show/hide docs
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Bolchoz, J Robert (South Carolina) show/hide docs
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Bowers, Karl S. (South Carolina) show/hide docs
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Brant, Harrison David (South Carolina) show/hide docs
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Carroll, Matthew Todd (South Carolina) show/hide docs
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Crum, Mary Elizabeth (South Carolina) show/hide docs
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Hall, Kevin A (South Carolina) show/hide docs
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Lambert, William Grayson (South Carolina) show/hide docs
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Limehouse, Thomas Ashley Jr. (South Carolina) show/hide docs
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McWilliams, Susan Pedrick (South Carolina) show/hide docs
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Moore, Mark Carroll (South Carolina) show/hide docs
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Svedberg, Sara Sofia (South Carolina) show/hide docs
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Trinkley, Jane W (South Carolina) show/hide docs
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Other Lawyers Bowens, Barbara Murcier (South Carolina) show/hide docs
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Cook, Robert Dewayne (South Carolina) show/hide docs
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Davis, Elliott M. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Dellheim, Richard A. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Dreiband, Eric S. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Herren, T. Christian Jr. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Kirkland, Harley (South Carolina) show/hide docs
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McCoy, Peter M Jr (South Carolina) show/hide docs
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Smith, James Emory Jr. (South Carolina) show/hide docs
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Stepp, Robert Erving (South Carolina) show/hide docs
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Traywick, Vordman Carlisle (South Carolina) show/hide docs
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Tyson, Robert E (South Carolina) show/hide docs
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Wilson, Alan (South Carolina) show/hide docs
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Zoellner, David H (South Carolina) show/hide docs
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