Third Circuit Panel Hears Oral Arguments on Voter Purge Case

By Archita Taylor April 27, 2017

A panel of Third Circuit Court of Appeals judges heard oral arguments today in the case American Civil Rights Union v. Philadelphia City Commissioners. Voting rights groups Project Vote and Demos, with the help of pro bono firm Hogan Lovells, submitted an amicus curiae brief in this case in February 2017.

The case, brought by the ACRU, is an attempt to undermine the letter of the law and the spirit of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), by forcing the City of Philadelphia to conduct unnecessary purges of its voter rolls by removing individuals with felony convictions from the rolls. At its core, the case is an attempt to shut out eligible Americans from the voting process and disenfranchise communities of color.

The oral argument was heard on appeal from the district court’s ruling in favor of the City of Philadelphia, which held that the ACRU’s argument did not comport with the plain language of the NVRA, which has no such requirement to remove those with felony convictions.

In the oral argument today, the three-judge panel in Philadelphia questioned counsel for both the ACRU and the City on the requirements under the NVRA, as well as the state law’s requirements for voter registration and voter list maintenance by the city. It was an especially interesting argument to observe, given the ACRU’s record of pursuing aggressive and unlawful purges of voter rolls across the country. Ultimately, Project Vote hopes for a positive ruling on behalf of the Philadelphia City Commissioners and Philadelphia voters.