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Puerto Rico District Court Orders Election Commission to Expand Early Voting to Senior Citizens

In a voting rights case brought by Paul, Weiss and the ACLU, the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico enjoined the Puerto Rico Election Commission from denying senior citizens access to early voting and vote by mail in the November general elections. To ensure that senior citizens were properly alerted to this change in policy, the court also ordered the Election Commission to extend the deadline for early voting applications for senior citizens until September 24, and to educate citizens on the new eligibility during this intervening period.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of two Puerto Rico residents over the age of 60 and alleged that the Election Commission and its then-president, Juan Dávila-Rivera, denied plaintiffs the right to vote by failing to adopt protective health measures, i.e. early voting and vote by mail, to ensure senior citizens can safely vote during the November election. At the emergency hearing, the Paul, Weiss and ACLU team argued that because the Election Commission provided senior citizens no option that avoids exposure to COVID-19, it effectively disenfranchised a significant number of its at-risk citizens.

Despite making up more than 20% of Puerto Rico’s population, senior citizens did not qualify for early voting in Puerto Rico under any of the categories authorized by Puerto Rico’s Election Code for the general election, and would have been forced to vote in person on November 3, absent any relief. In his order, Judge Pedro Delgado-Hernandez recognized “the right of older citizens (60+) to vote early” and extended the early voting period from September 14 to September 24. On September 14, the Election Commission confirmed that Judge Delgado's decision will not be appealed. This marks the first time in Puerto Rico’s history that citizens in Puerto Rico will be allowed to vote by mail.

The Paul, Weiss team included litigation partner Jaren Janghorbani and associates Lissette Duran, Makiko Hiromi, David Giller, Lilibeth Clelo, Juan Gascon and Federico Varni.

September 11, 2020

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