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Case Name DCCC v. Ziriax VR-OK-0020
Docket / Court 4:20-cv-00211 ( N.D. Okla. )
State/Territory Oklahoma
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.
COVID-19 Summary: This lawsuit was filed on May 18, 2020, 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.
COVID-19 Summary: This lawsuit was filed on May 18, 2020, by the national congressional committee of the Democratic Party and the Oklahoma Democratic Party against the Oklahoma State Election Board, challenging various Oklahoma election laws in light of COVID-19. The plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief enjoining the defendants from enforcing the challenged provisions and requiring the defendants to provide prepaid postage and postpone the county certification deadline by a week. On September 17, the court denied the plaintiffs’ request for injunctive relief and terminated the action.


On May 18, 2020, the national congressional committee of the Democratic Party and the Oklahoma Democratic Party filed a complaint against the Oklahoma State Election Board to challenge the constitutionality of various restrictions for absentee voting such as the Notarization, Witness, Photo Identification, and Postage Requirements, as well as the Absentee Assistance Ban and the Election Day Receipt Deadline. The plaintiffs sought declaratory relief under 28 U.S.C. §§ 2201-02 and injunctive relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Specifically, they sought an order enjoining the defendants from enforcing the challenged laws and requiring the defendants to provide prepaid postage on all absentee ballots and to postpone the county certification deadline by a week for the November 2020 general elections. The plaintiffs also sought attorney fees and were represented by private attorneys. The case was filed at the U.S. District for the Northern District of Oklahoma and was assigned to Judge John Edward Dowdell.

In the complaint, the plaintiffs noted that many Oklahomans anticipated voting absentee to avoid the risk of contracting COVID-19 by voting in-person. The plaintiffs noted that the requirement to obtain notarization, secure a witness, copy identification and purchase stamps required voters to risk infection and expend money to participate in the election, which created an undue burden on the right to vote against the First and Fourteenth Amendments. They also alleged that the Postage Requirement was an unconstitutional poll tax against the Fourteenth and Twenty-Fourth Amendments. The plaintiffs further noted that the Absentee Assistance Ban foreclosed organizations from providing assistance to constituents by delivering their sealed voted ballots upon request, which would primarily assist low-income communities with fewer polling locations. Therefore, the plaintiffs argued that the ban which limits the number of voices who will convey the DCCC’s Oklahoma Democratic Party’s messages violates Free Speech and Associational Rights. Lastly, the plaintiffs challenged the Election Day Receipt Deadline, which imposed a cut off time for 7:00 PM on Election Day to count the ballots regardless of when the ballot was postmarked. The plaintiffs argued that because the current postal system was overburdened, the deadline threatened to disenfranchise voters for circumstances beyond their control in violation of due process.

On June 11, the complaint was amended to additionally request an order enjoining the Ballot Request Criminalization, which prevents a third party from assisting in requesting absentee ballots on behalf of individuals, and from enforcing the Absentee Assistance Criminalization, which prevents a third party in assisting in the collection and submission of their absentee ballots.

On June 19, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss for improper venue, or in the alternative, to transfer the case to the Western District of Oklahoma. The defendants argued that the only proper defendant was the Secretary of the Oklahoma State Election Board, who resides in the Western District of Oklahoma. The plaintiffs filed a response on July 10 and argued that other members of the Election Board were also proper defendants because they had authority over county election boards. The plaintiffs noted that numerous people burdened by the challenged restrictions resided in the Northern District of Oklahoma; therefore, they argued the venue was proper.

On August 4, the court found that the Board Members were proper defendants and denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss or transfer venue. On August 19, the plaintiffs moved for a preliminary injunction, and a hearing was held on August 26. On September 17, the court denied the plaintiffs’ request for injunctive relief and terminated the action, finding that the state’s interest in preventing voter fraud and maintaining confidence in voting outweighed the burdens imposed upon Oklahoma voters. 2020 WL 5569576.

The case is ongoing.

Averyn Lee - 09/28/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Due Process: Procedural Due Process
Freedom of speech/association
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief denied
General
Voting
Voting access
Medical/Mental Health
COVID-19 Mitigation Requested
COVID-19 Release Denied
Plaintiff Type
State Plaintiff
Voting
Election administration
Voter registration rules
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Defendant(s) Oklahoma State Election Board
Plaintiff Description the national congressional committee of the Democratic Party and the Oklahoma Democratic Party
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief None yet
None
Source of Relief None yet
None
Filed 05/18/2020
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)
Court Docket(s)
N.D. Okla.
09/17/2020
4:20-cv-00211
VR-OK-0020-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
N.D. Okla.
06/11/2020
Amended Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief [ECF# 18]
VR-OK-0020-0002.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Okla.
07/10/2020
Plaintiffs' Response to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Improper Parties and Dismiss or Transfer Venue [ECF# 31]
VR-OK-0020-0003.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Okla.
07/24/2020
Defendants' Reply in Support of their Motion to Dismiss Improper Parties and Dismiss or Transfer Venue and Brief in Support [ECF# 32]
VR-OK-0020-0004.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Okla.
08/04/2020
Order [ECF# 33]
VR-OK-0020-0005.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Okla.
08/19/2020
Plaintiffs' Motion and Memorandum in Support of Motion for Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 47]
VR-OK-0020-0006.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Okla.
09/17/2020
Complaint for Injunctive and Declaratory Relief [ECF# 2]
VR-OK-0020-0001.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Okla.
09/17/2020
Opinion and Order [ECF# 56] (2020 WL 5569576)
VR-OK-0020-0007.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Dowdell, John Edward (N.D. Okla.) show/hide docs
VR-OK-0020-0005 | VR-OK-0020-0007 | VR-OK-0020-9000
Jayne, Jodi F. Court not on record [Magistrate] show/hide docs
VR-OK-0020-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Conley, Will McDonell (Wisconsin) show/hide docs
VR-OK-0020-0002 | VR-OK-0020-0003 | VR-OK-0020-0006 | VR-OK-0020-9000
Curtis, Charles G. Jr. (Wisconsin) show/hide docs
VR-OK-0020-0001 | VR-OK-0020-0002 | VR-OK-0020-0003 | VR-OK-0020-0006 | VR-OK-0020-9000
Devaney, John M. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
VR-OK-0020-0001 | VR-OK-0020-0002 | VR-OK-0020-0003 | VR-OK-0020-0006 | VR-OK-0020-9000
Elias, Marc Erik (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
VR-OK-0020-0001 | VR-OK-0020-0002 | VR-OK-0020-0003 | VR-OK-0020-0006 | VR-OK-0020-9000
Frasier, Frank W. (Oklahoma) show/hide docs
VR-OK-0020-0002 | VR-OK-0020-0003 | VR-OK-0020-0006
Glickman, Ariel Brynne (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
VR-OK-0020-0001 | VR-OK-0020-0002 | VR-OK-0020-0003 | VR-OK-0020-0006
Shah, Sopen B. (Wisconsin) show/hide docs
VR-OK-0020-0001 | VR-OK-0020-0002 | VR-OK-0020-0003 | VR-OK-0020-0006 | VR-OK-0020-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Cleveland, Bryan (Oklahoma) show/hide docs
VR-OK-0020-0004 | VR-OK-0020-9000
Mansinghani, Mithun (Oklahoma) show/hide docs
VR-OK-0020-0004 | VR-OK-0020-9000
Schneider, Thomas R. (Oklahoma) show/hide docs
VR-OK-0020-0004 | VR-OK-0020-9000

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