Democratic National Committee v Republican National Committee
Case No. 09-4615 (C.A. 3, Mar. 8, 2012)In 1982, the Republican National Committee (?RNC?) and the Democratic National Committee (?DNC?) entered into a consent decree (the ?Decree? or ?Consent Decree?), which is national in scope, limiting the RNC?s ability to engage or assist in voter fraud prevention unless the RNC obtains the court?s approval in advance. The RNC appeals from a judgment of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey denying, in part, the RNC?s Motion to Vacate or Modify the Consent Decree. Although the District Court declined to vacate the Decree, it did make modifications to the Decree. The RNC argues that the District Court abused its discretion by modifying the Decree as it did and by declining to vacate the Decree. For the following reasons, we will affirm the District Court?s judgment.
A. 1981 Lawsuit and Consent Decree
During the 1981 New Jersey gubernatorial election, the DNC, the New Jersey Democratic State Committee (?DSC?), Virginia L. Peggins, and Lynette Monroe brought an action against the RNC, the New Jersey Republican State Committee (?RSC?), John A. Kelly, Ronald Kaufman, and Alex Hurtado, alleging that the RNC and RSC targeted minority voters in an effort to intimidate them in violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (?VRA?), 42 U.S.C. §§ 1971, 1973, and the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States. The RNC allegedly created a voter challenge list by mailing sample ballots to individuals in precincts with a high percentage of racial or ethnic minority registered voters and, then, including individuals whose postcards were returned as undeliverable on a list of voters to challenge at the polls. The RNC also allegedly enlisted the help of off-duty sheriffs and police officers to intimidate voters by standing at polling places in minority precincts during voting with ?National Ballot Security Task Force? armbands. Some of the officers allegedly wore firearms in a visible manner.
To settle the lawsuit, the RNC and RSC entered into the Consent Decree at issue here. The RNC and RSC agreed that they would:
[I]n the future, in all states and territories of the United States:
(a) comply with all applicable state and federal laws protecting the rights of duly qualified citizens to vote for the candidate(s) of their choice;
(b) in the event that they produce or place any signs which are part of ballot security activities, cause said signs to disclose that they are authorized or sponsored by the party committees and any other committees participating with the party committees;
(c) refrain from giving any directions to or permitting their agents or employees to remove or deface any lawfully printed and placed campaign materials or signs;
(d) refrain from giving any directions to or permitting their employees to campaign within restricted polling areas or to interrogate prospective voters as to their qualifications to vote prior to their entry to a polling place;
(e) refrain from undertaking any ballot security activities in polling places or election districts where the racial or ethnic composition of such districts is a factor in the decision to conduct, or the actual conduct of, such activities there and where a purpose or significant effect of such activities is to deter qualified voters from voting; and the conduct of such activities disproportionately in or directed toward districts that have a substantial proportion of racial or ethnic populations shall be considered relevant evidence of the existence of such a factor and purpose;
(f) refrain from having private personnel deputized as law enforcement personnel in connection with ballot security activities.