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Press Release

Justice Department Seeks to Intervene in Lawsuit Against New York City Board of Elections

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs

The Justice Department announced today that it has filed a motion to intervene in Common Cause New York et al. v. Board of Elections in the City of New York et al, a private lawsuit alleging that the New York City Board of Elections failed to comply with Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA).  The lawsuit was filed by private plaintiffs on Nov. 3, 2016.

The department alleges that the New York City Board of Elections’ Brooklyn Borough Office violated the NVRA by improperly removing more than 117,000 registered voters from the voter registration rolls prior to the April 2016 primary election.  According to the complaint in intervention, the Board of Elections purged these voters based solely on their failure to vote in past elections, which violates Section 8(b)(2) of the NVRA.    

The department also alleges ongoing concerns with the oversight of voter list maintenance procedures by the New York City Board of Elections, in violation of federal law.  Without intervention, these deficiencies could lead to the same or similar NVRA violations occurring again in the future.  

“Federal law demands careful maintenance of the voter rolls to ensure lists are kept accurate, without unjustifiably and unlawfully purging eligible citizens,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.  “The department appreciates the continued cooperation of the New York City Board of Elections, including proactive steps taken to start remedying violations that have occurred – but more is necessary to reach full compliance with the law.”

“The right of citizens to vote is a critical part of democratic process,” said U.S. Attorney Robert L. Capers of the Eastern District of New York.  “We will work tirelessly to ensure that, in the future, the New York City Board of Elections fulfills its statutory obligation to maintain the rolls properly, and provide appropriate notice to voters when it does so.”

Section 8 of the NVRA addresses voter registration list maintenance procedures in elections for federal office.  Programs to maintain accurate and current voter registration lists must be uniform, nondiscriminatory and in compliance with the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  Moreover, programs to maintain accurate and current voter registration lists may not remove voters solely by reason of a voter’s failure to vote. 

More information about the NVRA and other federal voting laws is available on the division’s website at  Complaints about voter registration practices may be reported to the Civil Rights Division’s Voting Section at 1-800-253-3931.

Updated August 31, 2021

Civil Rights
Voting and Elections
Press Release Number: 17-048