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Colon-Marrero v. Garcia Velez

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

February 1, 2016

MYRNA COLÓN-MARRERO; JOSEFINA ROMAGUERA AGRAIT, Plaintiffs, Appellees; Cross-Appellants,
LIZA M. GARCÍA VÉLEZ, as President of the Puerto Rico State Elections Commission, Defendant, Appellee; Cross-Appellee, GUILLERMO SAN ANTONIO-ACHA, as Electoral Commissioner of the Popular Democratic Party; JORGE DÁVILA, as Electoral Commissioner of the New Progressive Party, Defendants, Appellees ROBERTO I. APONTE-BERRÍOS, as Electoral Commissioner of the Puerto Rico Independence Party; JULIO FONTANET MALDONADO, as Electoral Commissioner of the Movimiento Union Soberanista; ADRIÁN DÍAZ-DÍAZ, as Electoral Commissioner of the Puertoriqueños por Puerto Rico; LILLIAN APONTE-DONES, as Electoral Commissioner of the Partido del Pueblo Trabajador, Defendants.


José L. Nieto-Mingo, with whom Nieto Law Offices were on brief, for defendant-appellant/cross-appellee García Vélez.

Jorge Martínez-Luciano, with whom Martínez-Luciano & Rodríguez-Escudero was on brief, for defendant-appellee San Antonio-Acha.

Joan Schlump Peters, with whom Andrés Guillemard-Noble and Nachman & Guillemard, P.S.C. were on brief, for defendant-appellee Dávila.

Carlos A. Del Valle Cruz, with whom Del Valle Law, Carlos M. Hernández López, and Rafael E. García Rodón were on brief, for plaintiffs-appellees/cross-appellants.

Before Howard, Chief Judge, Selya and Lipez, Circuit Judges.

LIPEZ, Circuit Judge.

We revisit in this case whether federal law forbids Puerto Rico from removing individuals from its active voter registry for the office of Resident Commissioner --the only federal elective position in Puerto Rico -- based solely on their failure to vote in one general election. In 2012, in an interlocutory appeal brought just weeks before Election Day, the panel majority held that the National Voter Registration Act ("NVRA") does not apply to Puerto Rico and thus does not supersede the Commonwealth's voter deactivation procedures. See Colón-Marrero v. Conty-Pérez, 703 F.3d 134, 137 (1st Cir. 2012) (per curiam). The majority also concluded, however, that plaintiffs were likely to succeed on the merits of their claim that another federal statute -- the Help America Vote Act ("HAVA") -- does bar Puerto Rico from removing voters from the registry for the office of Resident Commissioner unless they fail to participate in the preceding two general federal elections. Id. at 138. We nonetheless refused to order plaintiffs' immediate reinstatement to the voter registry, deeming such preliminary injunctive relief "improvident" given the uncertain feasibility of properly reinstating voters in the short time remaining before the election. Id. at 139.

On remand for consideration of the merits of plaintiffs' claims after the 2012 election, the district court agreed with our preliminary assessment that HAVA invalidates Article 6.012 of Puerto Rico Act No. 78 of 2011 insofar as it applies to voter eligibility for federal elections. It thus issued injunctive and declaratory relief barring the Puerto Rico State Elections Commission ("SEC") from removing otherwise eligible voters from the active election registry unless HAVA's requirements are met. Defendant Liza M. García Vélez, as SEC president, now challenges that ruling.[1] In a cross-appeal, plaintiffs ask us to reconsider our conclusion that NVRA does not apply to Puerto Rico, and they further argue that excluding the Commonwealth from NVRA's coverage would violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution.

Having considered each of these claims, we reiterate our conclusion that NVRA does not apply to Puerto Rico. In addition, we reject plaintiffs' constitutional challenge to that statute's coverage. We also adhere to our preliminary view that HAVA, which comprehensively addresses federal election administration, invalidates Article 6.012's deactivation procedure. We further hold that plaintiffs may bring a private cause of action seeking relief under HAVA pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the district court.

I. Factual Background

A. The 2012 Litigation

Plaintiffs Myrna Colón-Marrero and Josefina Romaguera Agrait filed this action in September 2012 claiming they were unlawfully removed from the Commonwealth's active voter registry, pursuant to Article 6.012, [2] for having "exercised their right not to vote in the 2008 election for Resident Commissioner."[3] Am. Compl. ¶ 1. They asserted violations of NVRA, HAVA, and the Constitution, and sought declaratory and injunctive relief that included invalidation of Article 6.012 and immediate reinstatement of themselves and all similarly situated persons as eligible voters "in the upcoming election for federal office." Id. ¶ 2.[4] Under both NVRA and HAVA, registered voters retain eligibility to vote in a federal election unless they have failed to respond to a notice seeking to confirm eligible residency and have not voted in two consecutive general elections for federal office. See 52 U.S.C. § 20507(b)(2)(NVRA); id. § 21083(a)(4)(A) (HAVA).[5]Plaintiffs also asked for an order directing the defendants "to abide by all the voter registration and other applicable mandates of the NVRA, HAVA and the first, due process and equal protection amendments to the Constitution." Am. Compl. ¶ 2.

The district court denied plaintiffs' request for a preliminary injunction, and Colón-Marrero (but not Romaguera Agrait) appealed. After holding a special oral argument session on October 11, 2012, a panel of this court concluded that Colón-Marrero had shown a likelihood of success on the merits of her claim for reinstatement. See Colón-Marrero, 703 F.3d at 136. We determined, however, that "serious factual questions remained as to the balance of harms and the public interest in ordering the immediate reinstatement of the more than 300, 000 voters who had been stricken from the registration roll." Id. Accordingly, we remanded the case to the district court for fact-finding on the feasibility of reactivating the affected voters in time for the November 6 election. See id.

Based on testimony presented at a two-day hearing on October 15 and 16, the district court found it would be feasible to reactivate the I-8 voters if this court ordered such relief by October 23 and devised a same-day recusal procedure that would allow the Commonwealth to exclude voters who had become ineligible for reasons other than Article 6.012 (such as moving out of the precinct or the Commonwealth). Id. at 136-37. The district court certified its findings to this court on October 17. In a brief order the next day, the appellate panel, with one dissenting member, affirmed the denial of preliminary relief because the district court's findings did not alleviate the majority's feasibility concerns.

Opinions explaining the October 18 ruling were issued on November 2. Among other factors, the majority noted that Puerto Rico law does not include a mechanism for same-day challenges to voter eligibility, which the district court had identified as necessary, and the majority observed that, "[e]ven if it were appropriate for a federal court to prescribe alternative recusal procedures, we would be ill equipped to do so in the short time remaining before the election." Id. at 139. The majority also pointed out that, although plaintiff originally sought to vote only for the federal position of Resident Commissioner -- rather than seeking to vote generally in the election[6] -- she had elicited "scant evidence" at the evidentiary hearing on the practicality of a limited reinstatement. Id. at 138. As a result, the district court had made no finding on that issue -- "a major concern for the majority because the candidates for both Resident Commissioner and Governor appear on the same ballot." Id. at 138-39. Moreover, the panel expressed concern about the plaintiffs' decision to bring this action "less than two months before a general election that had long been scheduled for November 6." Id. at 139.

Having determined that, in these circumstances, it would be "improvident to grant plaintiff's requested relief with only eighteen days remaining before the general election, " id., the panel refused to grant a preliminary injunction and remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings.[7]

B. Proceedings on Remand

In June 2013, on remand, the parties agreed to submit the case to the district court for decision on the merits based on a joint stipulation of facts and memoranda of law. On March 31, 2014, the district court ordered the parties to file the stipulation by April 30 and simultaneous memoranda by May 30, with replies due by June 20. The court described the case at that point as follows:

Although the nature of the controversies has been well defined during the preliminary injunction relief stage, primarily during the remand hearing and in the First Circuit's opinion issued in Colón-Marrero v. Conty-Pérez, 703 F.3d 134 (1st Cir. 2012), the parties are advised that the scope of relief -- whether the remedy is limited to the election of the Resident Commissioner in Puerto Rico or extends to the general election process -- is an open question that shall be addressed in the parties' briefs.

In compliance with the order, the parties filed a limited stipulation of facts stating only that (1) the two plaintiffs voted in the 2004 general election, (2) did not vote in the 2008 general election, (3) did not follow the reactivation requirement of Article 6.012 to re-establish eligibility to vote in 2012, and (4) did not vote in the 2012 general election. In their memoranda, the last of which was filed on June 20, 2014, the parties presented arguments on plaintiffs' HAVA and constitutional claims -- with all parties agreeing that our 2012 ruling governed on the applicability of NVRA.

The district court found in favor of plaintiffs on January 30, 2015, and entered final judgment granting declaratory and injunctive relief on June 4, 2015.[8] In its decision, the court cited the undisputed fact that HAVA by its terms applies in Puerto Rico, see 52 U.S.C. § 21141, and it concluded that the HAVA provision setting out the two-election prerequisite for deactivating voters is not limited to jurisdictions covered by NVRA. The court explained that the pertinent provision in HAVA does not merely incorporate the equivalent NVRA provision, but "explicitly set[s] forth" the requirement that a voter miss two consecutive general elections before being deactivated.

The court thus held that the one-election deactivation standard of Article 6.012 must give way to HAVA's two-election requirement. It further concluded that, because "Puerto Rico has a single voter registration system, not two, " HAVA "necessarily regulates the registration lists for the general elections in Puerto Rico, which always include the election for the Resident Commissioner as an integral part of the general election process." The court permanently enjoined the SEC "from removing from the official list of eligible voters any registrant who did not vote in a single general election" and declared that "the SEC is affirmatively ordered that no lawfully registered voter may be removed from the official list of eligible voters unless they have not voted in the two immediately preceding elections and have received and have been given notice of an intent to remove them from such list."

These appeals followed. Defendant García Vélez challenges the grant of declaratory and injunctive relief for plaintiffs based on HAVA. In their cross-appeal, plaintiffs argue that this court should reconsider its ruling that NVRA does not apply to Puerto Rico, emphasizing that "said determination was solely a preliminary injunction review as to probable outcomes." Alternatively, plaintiffs seek a ruling that excluding Puerto Rico from NVRA violates the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution.[9]

II. The Cross-Appeal: Applicability of NVRA

A. Statutory Construction

We decline to revisit our prior decision that NVRA does not apply to Puerto Rico. Although plaintiffs are correct that we reached that decision in the context of a request for preliminary relief, our examination of the statute was neither tentative nor incomplete. We concluded that "[t]he textual signals and the legislative history, taken together, constitute persuasive evidence that Congress did not intend to include Puerto Rico as a 'State' under the NVRA." Colón-Marrero, 703 F.3d at 138.[10]Indeed, the district court and parties have treated our analysis as decisive, and plaintiffs essentially admit in their brief that they reiterate their NVRA statutory construction argument out of an abundance of caution. To eliminate any ambiguity, we now explicitly reaffirm our earlier determination that NVRA does not apply to Puerto Rico for the reasons outlined in our November 2012 opinion. See Colón-Marrero, 703 F.3d at 137-38.

B. The Constitutionality of NVRA

We also find unavailing plaintiffs' theory that they are entitled to the protections provided by NVRA because excluding Puerto Rico from the statute's coverage violates the Equal Protection Clause. Plaintiffs assert that, absent NVRA's protections, citizens residing in Puerto Rico have a version of the right to vote that is unconstitutionally inferior to the right afforded citizens residing in the fifty states and the District of Columbia.

Plaintiffs first suggest that Congress's decision not to apply NVRA to Puerto Rico must be examined under strict scrutiny. They rely on the fact that a legislative classification is subject to strict scrutiny if it "impermissibly interferes with the exercise of a fundamental right, " Mass. Bd. of Ret. v. Murgia, 427 U.S. 307, 312 (1976), and that the right to vote "is of the most fundamental significance under our constitutional structure, " Ill. State Bd. of Elections v. Socialist Workers Party, 440 U.S. 173, 184 (1979). But a necessary prerequisite to strict scrutiny is a showing that a fundamental right has been burdened, see Romer v. Evans, 517 U.S. 620, 631 (1996), and the plaintiffs have failed at the threshold to demonstrate how NVRA's exclusion of Puerto Rico burdens their right to vote. The mere fact that a statute concerns voting does not establish that the statute infringes on a fundamental right. See Igartua de la Rosa v. United States, 32 F.3d 8, 10 & n.2 (1st Cir. 1994) (per curiam). Absent a showing that NVRA substantially burdens the rights of Puerto Rico residents to vote in federal elections -- and no such showing has even been attempted here -- strict scrutiny does not apply.

In the absence of strict scrutiny, plaintiffs' equal protection challenge prompts rational basis review. See Romer, 517 U.S. at 631. Plaintiffs' claim founders on this standard. To be sure, NVRA prescribes more restrictive deactivation prerequisites than does Article 6.012 and, in that respect, arguably offers greater protection to the federal voting rights of mainland citizens. Yet, significant factual differences exist between federal elections in Puerto Rico and in the jurisdictions covered by NVRA. Unlike in the states and the District of Columbia, general federal elections in Puerto Rico occur on a four-year, rather than two-year, cycle. See 48 U.S.C. § 891 (setting a four-year term for the Resident Commissioner). Article 6.012 thus allows election officials to remove individuals from active voting rolls after the same four-year period prescribed by NVRA -- albeit after one election rather than two.

In addition, the only federal election in Puerto Rico is for the office of Resident Commissioner, a non-voting position in Congress. Unlike the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico does not choose Presidential electors. See U.S. Const. art. II, § 1, cl.2; id. amend. XXIII. Plaintiffs do not explain why Congress could not rely on those distinctions to refrain from extending NVRA's obligations to the federal election process in the Commonwealth.[11]

We thus conclude that plaintiffs have not articulated a viable constitutional challenge to NVRA based on the exclusion of Puerto Rico from its scope.

III. The Appeal: HAVA and a Private Right of Action

At the heart of this appeal is the district court's grant of declaratory and injunctive relief for plaintiffs based on its determination that HAVA's two-election deactivation threshold supersedes the single-election trigger of Article 6.012.[12]Appellant García Vélez, as SEC president, challenges those remedies on two separate grounds. She first argues that the pertinent provision of HAVA -- like the equivalent section of NVRA -- does not apply to Puerto Rico elections. Second, she insists that, even if Puerto Rico is within the provision's scope, there is no private right of action to seek a remedy.

We consider each of these issues of law in turn. Our review is de novo. See Gen. Motors Corp. v. Darling's, 444 F.3d 98, 107 (1st Cir. 2006).

A. Does HAVA section 303(a)(4) Supersede Article 6.012's Deactivation Procedure?

The November 2000 presidential election "and its attendant controversies" prompted Congress "to review and reform the administration of federal elections." Fla. State Conf. of the NAACP v. Browning, 522 F.3d 1153, 1155 (11th Cir. 2008); see also H.R. 107-329, pt. 1, at 31 (2001), 2001 WL 1579545, at *31 ("The circumstances surrounding the election that took place in November 2000 brought an increased focus on the process of election administration, and highlighted the need for improvements."); Samuel Issacharoff, Pamela S. Karlan & Richard H. Pildes, The Law of Democracy 1169 (4th ed. 2012). HAVA was the product of that review, and the statute, inter alia, revisited the subject of voter registration that also had been the primary focus of NVRA. See 52 U.S.C. § 20501(b) (stating that the purposes of NVRA include "establish[ing] procedures that will increase the number of eligible citizens who register to vote in elections for Federal office" and "ensur[ing] that accurate and current voter registration rolls are maintained"); 52 U.S.C. §§ 21081-85 (outlining HAVA requirements for election technology and administration).[13] Unlike NVRA, however, HAVA by its express terms applies to Puerto Rico and the United States territories, in addition to the states and the District of Columbia. Id. § 21141. The specific HAVA provision at issue in this case, section 303(a), is titled "Computerized statewide voter registration list requirements." 52 U.S.C. § 21083(a). With an exception not relevant here, the section directs that "each State . . . shall implement, in a uniform and nondiscriminatory manner, a single, uniform, official, centralized, interactive computerized statewide voter registration list . . . that contains the name and registration information of every legally registered voter in the State." Id. § 21083(a)(1)(A). Appellant focuses on HAVA section 303(a)(4), which is titled "Minimum standard for accuracy of State voter registration records" and provides:

The State election system shall include provisions to ensure that voter registration records in the State are accurate and are updated regularly, including the following:

(A)A system of file maintenance that makes a reasonable effort to remove registrants who are ineligible to vote from the official list of eligible voters. Under such system, consistent with the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (42 U.S.C. 1973gg et seq.), registrants who have not responded to a notice and who have not voted in 2 consecutive general elections for Federal office shall be removed from the official list of eligible voters, except that no registrant may be removed solely by reason of a failure to vote.
(B)Safeguards to ensure that eligible voters are not removed in error from the official list of eligible voters.

52 U.S.C. § 21083(a)(4) (emphasis added).

Based on the highlighted language above, appellant argues that this subsection of HAVA applies only to those jurisdictions governed by NVRA. Her contention is that the HAVA requirement would not be "consistent with" NVRA if it is applied beyond the scope of that statute given that Congress excluded Puerto Rico from essentially the same deactivation requirement under NVRA -- i.e., by limiting NVRA's coverage to the states and the District of Columbia.[14] The district court concluded otherwise, pointing out that HAVA does not simply invoke NVRA, "leaving it to the reader to refer to that law to determine its contents, " but instead explicitly sets forth the two-election requirement for deactivation of voters.

Our starting point in discerning the meaning of a statute is the provision itself, and "[t]he plain meaning of a statute's text must be given effect 'unless it would produce an absurd result or one manifestly at odds with the statute's intended effect.'" Arnold v. United Parcel Serv., Inc., 136 F.3d 854, 858 (1st Cir. 1998) (quoting Parisi ex rel. Cooney v. Chater, 69 F.3d 614, 617 (1st Cir. 1995)); see also Matamoros v. Starbucks Corp., 699 F.3d 129, 134 (1st Cir. 2012) ("We assume that the ordinary meaning of the statutory language expresses the legislature's intent, and we resort to extrinsic aids to statutory construction (such as legislative history) only when the wording of the statute is freighted with ambiguity or leads to an unreasonable result."). "Of course, we focus on 'the plain meaning of the whole statute, not of isolated sentences.'" Arnold, 136 F.3d at 858 (quoting Beecham v. United States, 511 U.S. 368, 372 (1994)).

1. The Statute's Text

The plain meaning of section 303(a)(4)(A) is apparent from both its structure and its wording. Most significantly, the provision's mandate is stated independently of the "consistent with" phrase that is the foundation of appellant's argument. The first sentence of the subsection explains that a "system of file maintenance" must be created "to remove registrants who are ineligible to vote from the official list of eligible voters, " and the second sentence explains how "such system" must operate. 52 U.S.C. § 21083(a)(4)(A). These required actions are not defined by reference to obligations arising from NVRA.

Rather, in clear, affirmative language, the second sentence directs removal of registrants from "the official list of eligible voters" if they have not responded to a notice and did not vote in "2 consecutive general elections for Federal office." Id. The provision then emphasizes the need for both notice and a voting gap by stating that removal is barred "solely by reason of a failure to vote." Id. The reference to NVRA, by contrast, appears in a subordinate clause in that sentence. Its content and placement clearly signal a collateral purpose: to instruct responsible election officials and others (including the courts) that the measures required by HAVA do not alter NVRA's requirements and, hence, they should be implemented consistently with NVRA.

Appellant insists that examining section 303(a)(4)(A) in context undermines this textual analysis. She argues that, despite the explicit inclusion of Puerto Rico and the territories within HAVA's overall scope, Congress expressly exempted these jurisdictions from obligations that also appear in NVRA. We disagree.

2. The Statutory Context

As a prelude to our discussion of appellant's contextual argument, we pause briefly to note the detailed landscape of HAVA section 303. Section 303 governs two different categories of prescriptions, as reflected in its overall heading: "Computerized statewide voter registration list requirements and requirements for voters who register by mail." 52 U.S.C. § 21083. Subsection (a) addresses the statewide registration list, and subsection (b) addresses registration by mail. Each of those subsections is divided into five paragraphs, most of which are further subdivided into a number of subparagraphs. A contextual review thus requires close examination of multiple provisions. To aid the reader's understanding of our analysis, and as a supplement to the specific provisions within section 303 that are reproduced as part of our discussion, we provide the full text of section 303(a) and (b) in an appendix to this opinion.

Appellant claims that the inapplicability of HAVA's deactivation requirements to Puerto Rico is announced in section 303(b)(5), which provides that "[n]othing in this subsection shall be construed to require a State that was not required to comply with a provision of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 before October 29, 2002, to comply with such a provision after October 29, 2002." 52 U.S.C. § 21083(b)(5) (citation omitted). Appellant's effort to prove her point through context, however, relies on taking this particular provision out of context. As described above, subsection (a) of HAVA section 303 -- 52 U.S.C. § 21083 -- addresses the "Computerized statewide voter registration list requirements, " while subsection (b) details "Requirements for voters who register by mail."

The language appellant invokes ("Nothing in this subsection . . . .") is the fifth, and final, paragraph of subsection (b) --i.e., the subsection that addresses registration by mail.[15] Given its placement, section 303(b)(5) can only reasonably be construed to refer to the requirements related to voting by mail. Moreover, paragraph (5) by its terms merely states that HAVA is not changing the scope of NVRA, i.e., a state excluded from NVRA's requirements remains excluded from obligations imposed by NVRA. It says nothing about the state's additional obligations under HAVA.

However, two provisions within subsection (a) also invoke NVRA -- although neither proves helpful to appellant. Both provisions appear within the subsection's second paragraph, which is labeled "Computerized list maintenance, " and, specifically, under subheading (A) of that paragraph, labeled "In general."[16]The introductory portion of section (a)(2)(A) directs state and local election officials to "perform list maintenance with respect to the computerized list on a regular basis, " 52 U.S.C. § 21083(a)(2)(A), and it then specifies how to do so in terms that refer to NVRA.

One of those instructions states that, "[i]f an individual is to be removed from the computerized list, such individual shall be removed in accordance with the provisions of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993." See id. § 21083(a)(2)(A)(i). This instruction then lists several subsections of NVRA that prescribe removal procedures. Id. Among those provisions is one titled "Removal of names from voting rolls, " id. § 20507(d), which contains the notice and non-voting prerequisites for removal, linked to a change of residence. See id. § 20507(d)(1)(B); see supra n.14. Other provisions listed contain NVRA's requirements for (1) the content of the notice that must be sent to registrants, id. § 20507(d)(2); (2) "a general program" to remove the names of ineligible voters based on death or change in residence, id. § 20507(a)(4); and (3) procedures to allow a registrant who has moved within a district, without officially changing his address, to vote in his old or new polling place, id. § 20507(e).

This reliance on NVRA does not, however, describe a limitation of HAVA's coverage. Rather, by invoking these NVRA provisions, and directing that removal of voters under HAVA be done "in accordance with" NVRA, Congress is simply borrowing the earlier statute's procedures for effectuating the independent HAVA requirement to maintain an accurate list of eligible voters. It is telling that, while Congress piggybacks in section 303(a)(2)(A)(i) on NVRA's methodology, it affirmatively sets out the deactivation prerequisites in a separate provision -- section (a)(4)(A) reproduced above -- and labels those requirements as elements of the "[m]inimum standard for accuracy."[17]

To similar effect is the other subparagraph within section 303(a)(2)(A) addressing the list maintenance requirements in relation to NVRA. Section (a)(2)(A)(iii) provides that, "if a State is described in section 4(b) of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, that State shall remove the names of ineligible voters from the computerized list in accordance with State law." 52 U.S.C. § 21083(a)(2)(A)(iii) (citation omitted). States "described in section 4(b)" of NVRA are those that either have no registration requirements for voting in federal elections or allow "all voters in the State" to "register to vote at the polling place at the time of voting in a general election for Federal office." Id. § 20503(b). Puerto Rico would not be such a state even if it were included within NVRA's definition of "State." Indeed, this litigation would be unnecessary if that description applied to Puerto Rico.

Put simply, HAVA's look-back to NVRA in section 303(a)(4)(A) is sensibly understood only as an assurance that the obligations and procedures required by that HAVA subsection -- i.e., a system of file maintenance that makes a reasonable effort to remove registrants who are ineligible to vote from the official list of eligible voters, but protects eligible voters -- align with those previously mandated by NVRA.[18] By contrast, HAVA does not draw upon NVRA for the fundamentally different matter of which jurisdictions it covers. Each statute has its own definition of a covered "State." Under NVRA, "the term 'State' means a State of the United States and the District of Columbia." 52 U.S.C. ยง ...

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