More Voting Rights Lawsuits Filed in 2020 Than in 2016

With the lead up to the November elections, voting rights litigation in the federal courts has been climbing. During August 2020, a total of 31 new lawsuits were filed. Thus far during FY 2020, a period of eleven months, there have been a total of 202 new voting rights lawsuits[1].

Records are being broken by the pace of filing particularly during the latest six months. According to court information analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University, the last six months have seen the highest number of recorded voting rights suits since TRAC's systematic tracking of federal civil litigation began in October 2007.

When voting rights filings for the last six months are compared with those for the same period in the last presidential election cycle four years ago, their number is up by 82 percent. A total of 155 such suits were filed during the last six months. Four years ago there were only 85 suits during the same period in 2016. Compared with two years ago, the pace of filings is more than three times greater. Just 47 suits were filed in the same period during 2018.

The long-term trend in civil filings for these matters going back five years is shown more clearly in Figure 1. The vertical bars in Figure 1 represent the number of civil filings of this type recorded each month. The superimposed line on the bars plots the six-month moving average so that natural fluctuations are smoothed out.

Figure 1. Voting Civil Filings Over the Last Five Years
(Click for larger image)

Top Ranked Judicial Districts

Fifty-nine out of the ninety federal judicial districts in the United States saw one or more voting rights lawsuits filed thus far during FY 2020. The largest number of suits—a total of 15—were filed in the Northern District of Georgia (Atlanta) during this past year. According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution judges there are currently hearing "cases over voter registration purges, long lines, ballot postage, paper ballots, voter registration backups and election security."

Right behind the Northern District of Georgia is the Eastern District of Michigan (Detroit) with 13 voting rights lawsuits filed this fiscal year. The Western District of Texas (San Antonio) was third with 10 such suits. Rounding out the top five districts with the largest number of voting rights cases in the country were Arizona with 8 new lawsuits, and Southern District of New York (Manhattan) with 7 suits.

Relative to population, the lineup of districts was somewhat different. Not surprisingly, the District of Columbia—our nation's capital—had the largest volume of lawsuits relative to its population. Maine was second with 5 suits. Relative to Maine's population size, the state has seen over six times the national average of such filings. The Middle District of Louisiana (Baton Rouge) with 3 suits, was just behind Maine with just six times the national average.

Table 1 provides district-by-district statistics on the number and per capita filings of new voting rights lawsuits in each federal judicial district thus far during FY 2020[2].

Table 1. Voting Rights Lawsuits Filed During FY 2020 (through August)
Federal Judicial District Number Rate*
-All- 202 0.6
D. C. 6 8.5
Maine 5 3.7
La, M 3 3.6
Alaska 2 2.8
N Dakota 2 2.6
Wisc, W 6 2.5
S Dakota 2 2.3
Ga, N 15 2.2
Fla, N 4 2.1
Mich, E 13 2.0
R. I. 2 1.9
Miss, S 3 1.6
Ind, S 6 1.5
Ark, W 2 1.5
Texas, W 10 1.4
Hawaii 2 1.4
N. Y., S 7 1.3
Tenn, M 3 1.2
Ark, E 2 1.2
Ala, S 1 1.2
Arizona 8 1.1
W Virg, S 1 1.1
Ohio, S 6 1.0
Nevada 3 1.0
Virg, E 6 0.9
Mich, W 3 0.9
Ill, C 2 0.9
Ken, W 2 0.9
Okla, W 2 0.9
Virg, W 2 0.9
Montana 1 0.9
Maryland 5 0.8
S Car 4 0.8
Fla, S 5 0.7
Ala, N 2 0.7
N Car, M 2 0.7
N. Y., W 2 0.7
New Hamp 1 0.7
Ill, N 6 0.6
Penn, M 2 0.6
Wisc, E 2 0.6
Idaho 1 0.6
Texas, S 5 0.5
Cal, E 4 0.5
Colorado 3 0.5
Minnesota 3 0.5
N Car, E 2 0.5
N Mexico 1 0.5
Cal, C 5 0.3
N. J. 3 0.3
Penn, E 2 0.3
Conn 1 0.3
Ohio, N 1 0.2
Oregon 1 0.2
Texas, E 1 0.2
Cal, N 1 0.1
Fla, M 1 0.1
Mass 1 0.1
N. Y., E 1 0.1
* per million population


[1] More details on individual cases can be found at the Brennan Center for Justice link:

[2] For comparison, see this earlier TRAC report for district-by-district voting rights litigation filed from FY 2008 to FY 2016.

Each month, TRAC offers a free report focused on one area of civil litigation in the U.S. district courts. In addition, subscribers to the TRACFed data service can generate custom reports by district, office, nature of suit or federal jurisdiction via the TRAC Data Interpreter.