University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
new search
page permalink
Case Name Middleton v. Andino VR-SC-0079
Docket / Court 3:20-cv-01730 ( D.S.C. )
State/Territory South Carolina
Case Type(s) Election/Voting Rights
Special Collection COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)
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. NOTE: This case is being tracked in close to real time by the ... 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. 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 South Carolina voters, candidates, and democratic organizations, seeking to enjoin various voting restrictions in the South Carolina law. Some of their claims were mooted as to the June elections as South Carolina legislation passed on May 12 allowed voters to vote by absentee ballot. On May 25, the court partially granted a preliminary injunction, enjoining the witness requirement for the June 2020 primaries.

On May 1, 2020 several South Carolina political candidates and voters, as well as the South Carolina Democratic Party, the Democratic National Committee, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, filed this action in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, seeking relief from five voting provisions in the state law:
(1) the "Absentee Ballot Age Restriction," which prohibited all voters under 65 from casting mail-in ballots unless they are disabled or confined in jail; (2) the "Postage Tax," which required voters to pay postage for their absentee ballot if they wished to vote; (3) the "Election Day Cutoff," which rejected ballots not received by 7 pm on election day; (4) the "Absentee Assistance Ban," which prohibited candidates or paid campaign staff from assisting absentee voters; and (5) the "Witness Requirement," which required a witness to sign the absentee ballot in order for the vote to be counted.
The plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, sued the South Carolina State Election Commission and the Election Commissioner. They sought declaratory and injunctive relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and 28 U.S.C. §§ 2201-02 for violations of the First, Fourteenth, Twenty-Fourth, and Twenty-Sixth Amendments, as well as the Voting Rights Act, 52 U.S.C. §§ 10301-02. Specifically, the plaintiffs alleged that South Carolina's laws surrounding absentee voting unconstitutionally burdened the rights of some voters, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The case was assigned to Judge Michelle Childs.

On May 7, the plaintiffs filed a motion for preliminary injunction to stop the defendants from enforcing the Absentee Ballot Age Restriction, the Witness Requirement, and the Election Day Cutoff. They also requested the court to consolidate the motion hearing with another action where the plaintiffs had filed a motion for preliminary injunction against the same defendants.

The South Carolina Republican Party moved to intervene on May 11, which was granted on May 12.

Additionally, 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. These legislative changes mooted the plaintiffs' requests as to the Excuse Requirement and the Absentee Ballot Age Requirement for the June primaries. In light of the hearing scheduled for May 15, the plaintiffs attempted to extend their request for relief beyond the June primaries. The court limited the issues for the hearing, stating that the plaintiff's motion for preliminary injunction clearly sought only relief for June, and as such, the defendants had not been given proper notice.

The defendants and intervenors filed oppositions to the plaintiffs' motion for preliminary injunction on May 14.

On May 25, the court granted the motion for preliminary injunction in part, enjoining the defendants from enforcing the Witness Requirement for the June 2020 primaries. The defendants were also ordered to immediately and publicly inform South Carolina voters of the elimination of the witness requirement. 2020 WL 2617329.

The case is ongoing.

Caitlin Kierum - 06/04/2020


compress summary

- click to show/hide ALL -
Issues and Causes of Action
click to show/hide detail
Issues
Constitutional Clause
Equal Protection
Freedom of speech/association
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
Voting Rights Act, section 2, 52 U.S.C. § 10301 (previously 42 U.S.C. § 1973)
Voting Rights Act, section 208 (assistance for disabled persons), 52 U.S.C. § 10508 (previously 42 U.S.C. § 1973aa-6)
Voting Rights Act, unspecified, 52 U.S.C. § 10301 et seq (previously 42 U.S.C § 1973 et seq.)
Defendant(s) South Carolina State Election Commission
Plaintiff Description Voters and political candidates in South Carolina, as well as local and national Democratic organizations
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted Moot
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Order Duration 2020 - n/a
Filed 05/01/2020
Case Ongoing Yes
Case Listing VR-SC-0078 : Thomas v. Andino (D.S.C.)
Additional Resources
click to show/hide detail
  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
Docket(s)
3:20-cv-01730 (D.S.C.)
VR-SC-0079-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/02/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint for Injunctive and Declaratory Relief [ECF# 1, 1-1 & 1-2]
VR-SC-0079-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/01/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Plaintiffs' Motion and Incorporated Brief in Support of Motion for Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 13, 13-1 & 13-2]
VR-SC-0079-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/07/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Defendants’ Opposition to Motion for Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 32 & 32-1 to 32-3]
VR-SC-0079-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/14/2020
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# 33 & 33-1]
VR-SC-0079-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/14/2020
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# 37] (2020 WL 2617329) (D.S.C.)
VR-SC-0079-0005.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 05/25/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Childs, Julianna Michelle (D.S.C.) show/hide docs
VR-SC-0079-0005 | VR-SC-0079-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Bryant, Christopher James (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
VR-SC-0079-0001 | VR-SC-0079-0002 | VR-SC-0079-9000
Elias, Marc Erik (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
VR-SC-0079-0001 | VR-SC-0079-0002 | VR-SC-0079-9000
Shah, Sopen B. (Wisconsin) show/hide docs
VR-SC-0079-0001 | VR-SC-0079-0002
Smith, K’Shaani O (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
VR-SC-0079-0001 | VR-SC-0079-0002
Spiva, Bruce V. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
VR-SC-0079-0001 | VR-SC-0079-0002 | VR-SC-0079-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Bolchoz, J Robert (South Carolina) show/hide docs
VR-SC-0079-0003 | VR-SC-0079-9000
Bowers, Karl S. (South Carolina) show/hide docs
VR-SC-0079-0003 | VR-SC-0079-9000
Brant, Harrison David (South Carolina) show/hide docs
VR-SC-0079-0003 | VR-SC-0079-9000
Crum, Mary Elizabeth (South Carolina) show/hide docs
VR-SC-0079-0003 | VR-SC-0079-9000
Lambert, William Grayson (South Carolina) show/hide docs
VR-SC-0079-0003 | VR-SC-0079-9000
Stepp, Robert Erving (South Carolina) show/hide docs
VR-SC-0079-0004 | VR-SC-0079-9000
Traywick, Vordman Carlisle (South Carolina) show/hide docs
VR-SC-0079-0004 | VR-SC-0079-9000
Trinkley, Jane W (South Carolina) show/hide docs
VR-SC-0079-0003 | VR-SC-0079-9000
Tyson, Robert E (South Carolina) show/hide docs
VR-SC-0079-0004 | VR-SC-0079-9000
Other Lawyers Smith, James Emory Jr. (South Carolina) show/hide docs
VR-SC-0079-9000

- click to show/hide ALL -

new search
page permalink

- top of page -