The Andrew Goodman Foundation, Equal Citizens, and Common Cause File an Amicus Brief with SCOTUS Challenging Texas’s COVID-19 Vote By Mail Age Discrimination Law

Today, The Andrew Goodman Foundation (AGF), Equal Citizens, and Common Cause filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court of the United States to challenge the State of Texas’ age restriction to apply for an absentee ballot. The case, Garcia v. Abbott (No. 19-1389) challenges a law that, despite the pandemic, restricts young Americans from accessing no-excuse vote-by-mail while making it exclusively available to voters over the age of 65. In their amicus brief, the organizations argue that the unequal treatment of youth voters in the Texas vote-by-mail program violates the Twenty-Sixth Amendment, which bans age discrimination in voting. 

“The significant spike in COVID-19 infections shows that now more than ever, we must ensure that voting is safe, secure, and universally available,” remarked Alexandria Harris, Executive Director of The Andrew Goodman Foundation. “We are proud to join with Equal Citizens and Common Cause to urge the Supreme Court of the United States to dismantle the state of Texas’ 2 tier voting system where younger voters are discriminated against at the ballot box, especially during this pandemic. Universal vote-by-mail is the only way we can ensure full enfranchisement and protect public health for people of all ages. Our democracy is built on the idea of ‘one person, one vote,’ and if a segment of our population cannot freely exercise this right, then we cannot call ourselves a democracy.”

The filing of this amicus brief follows a report, published in June by AGF, Equal Citizens, and a coalition of civil rights groups and legal organizations, that details how Texas and 7 other states violate the Twenty-Sixth Amendment of the Constitution by discriminating based on age in their absentee voting systems. 

“Nearly 50 years ago, our country transcended partisan differences to overwhelmingly ratify the Twenty-Sixth Amendment, which extended enfranchisement to Americans as young as 18 and outlawed age discrimination in access to the ballot. Our nation recognized that the participation of young voters is essential to the health of our democracy. We are filing this amicus brief to prevail upon the United States Supreme Court to uphold this legacy and protect the full rights established by the Twenty-Sixth Amendment,” explained Yael Bromberg, Chief Counsel for Voting Rights for The Andrew Goodman Foundation. “Our report on age discrimination in vote-by-mail laws demonstrates that states with age restrictions harm younger voters. Preventing youth voters from voting by mail, particularly in the midst of a pandemic, is textbook voter suppression. It sends the dangerous message that we do not care about the health or rights of our young voters.”

Jason Harrow, Executive Director and Chief Counsel of Equal Citizens, added, “Recent court decisions, decided under extreme time and political pressure, have effectively written an important Amendment out of the Constitution. Worse, the decisions have redefined and narrowed the constitutional right to vote in the process. Our amicus brief highlights to the Supreme Court that this issue demands attention now, so that courts around the country are reminded that the text of the Twenty-Sixth Amendment really means what it says: no discrimination in voting on the basis of age.”

“COVID-19 does not discriminate by age and even if our senior population is most vulnerable to the virus, that does not mean that younger Texans are immune,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, President of Common Cause. “Gov. Abbott and the Texas Legislature are unnecessarily endangering the lives of millions of Texans by denying anyone under the age of 65 the right to vote safely by mail. Forcing even one Texan to choose between their health and casting a ballot is one too many.” 

The brief is filed by Jason Harrow, Esq. of Equal Citizens; Yael Bromberg, Esq. of The Andrew Goodman Foundation and Bromberg Law LLC; and Peter K. Stris, Esq. and Michael N. Donofrio, Esq. of Stris & Maher LLP.

About The Andrew Goodman Foundation 

The Andrew Goodman Foundation’s mission is to make young voices and votes a powerful force in democracy by training the next generation of leaders, engaging student voters, and challenging restrictive voter suppression laws. The Foundation’s Vote Everywhere program partners with America’s colleges and universities to provide resources, visibility, and mentoring to a national network of student leaders who involve their peers in participatory democracy through long-term voter engagement, public policy, and social justice initiatives. The organization is named after Andrew Goodman, a 20-year old Freedom Summer volunteer, and champion of equality and voting rights who was murdered by the KKK in 1964 while registering Black Americans to vote in Mississippi.

About Common Cause

Founded fifty years ago in 1970, Common Cause was organized on the core principle that as more eligible Americans participate, democracy in the United States becomes stronger. In 1971, Common Cause spearheaded coordinated state efforts to ratify the Twenty-Sixth Amendment, thereby extending the right to vote to 18-year old citizens and outlawing age discrimination in access to the franchise. Common Cause engages in grassroots advocacy to increase voter participation, reduce partisan gerrymandering, reform campaign financing, overcome obstacles to lawful voting, and make elections more fair, secure, and accessible. Today, Common Cause has more than 1.2 million members and supporters nationwide, and a network of affiliates in 25 states including Texas.

About Equal Citizens

Equal Citizens is a nonprofit founded by Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Lessig dedicated to reforms that will achieve citizen equality. Through a series of projects that aim to restore the core promise of citizen equality in our Constitution, Equal Citizens fights to end the corruption of our representative democracy.