Written by Tom Fitton
JW and True the Vote Sue Indiana Election Officials for Failing to Maintain Clean Voter Registration Lists
They can’t say they weren’t warned. As I first reported a few months ago, Judicial Watch put election officials on notice in a number of states that they must clean up their voter registration lists or face Judicial Watch lawsuits.
Election officials in the State of Indiana failed to heed our warning forcing JW to take historic action in federal court. This week JW filed a lawsuit in partnership with True the Vote against election officials in the State of Indiana alleging violations of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA).
Specifically our lawsuit alleges that Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson and Indiana Elections Division Co-Directors J. Bradley King and Trent Deckard have failed to maintain clean voter registration lists and make records related to voter registration list maintenance available as required by Section 8 of the NVRA. (As a reminder, Judicial Watch’s co-plaintiff,True the Vote, is a grassroots election integrity watchdog.)
Here’s a squib from our lawsuit filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division:
Plaintiffs seek declaratory and injunctive relief to compel Defendants’ compliance with Section 8 of the NVRA. Specifically, Defendants have violated Section 8 by failing to make a reasonable effort to conduct voter list maintenance programs in elections for Federal office and by failing to produce records related to those efforts, as required by Section 8. Plaintiffs thus seek a declaration and an injunction requiring Defendants to conduct and execute voter list maintenance programs in a manner that is consistent with federal law and further requiring Defendants to produce records about its list maintenance efforts.
This isn’t the first time the State of Indiana has been chastised for violating the NVRA.
In 2006 (back when the federal government actually cared about such things) the feds sued Indiana election officials and forced the state to take measures to comply with the voter list maintenance under the NVRA. However, the remedies enacted by the state under a consent decree proved to be temporary.
In fact, based upon Judicial Watch’s analysis of publicly available data for the November 2010 general election, the number of persons listed on voter registration rolls in 12 counties in the State of Indiana exceeds 100% of the total voting-age population in those counties!
Owing to this major discrepancy, on February 6, 2012, Judicial Watch notified election officials in Indiana that the state is in violation of the NVRA. The February 6, 2012 letter also requested that the State of Indiana make available for public inspection all records concerning “the implementation of programs and activities conducted for the purpose of ensuring the accuracy and currency” of official lists of eligible voters, per Section 8 of the NVRA.
In other words, we wanted to see the evidence that the State of Indiana was serious about the integrity of its voter registration lists.
Instead, we got an order formally denying what Indiana characterized as a “grievance or complaint,” without explanation. Moreover, not a single record has been made available responsive to Judicial Watch’s request.
Indiana’s election officials are clearly shirking their responsibility to maintain clean voter registration lists. And the citizens of Indiana should be outraged by the indifferent attitude their election officials have taken with respect to the National Voter Registration Act and to clean elections.
Indiana is far from the only state dealing with this specific problem. This is our first lawsuit. We plan to sue other states which failed to take reasonable steps to remove deceased and ineligible voters from the rolls because this is a nationwide problem.
A recent report by non-partisan Pew Charitable Trusts (Pew) found that inaccurate voter registrations are rampant. Pew’s independent research published in February 2012 indicates that approximately 24 million active voter registrations in states across the country – or one out of every eight registrations – are either no longer valid or are significantly inaccurate. According to a comprehensive Judicial Watch investigation, here are the worst offenders: Mississippi, Iowa, Indiana, Missouri, Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Florida, Alabama, and California.
And what are Obama Justice Department officials doing about the 24 million invalid voter registrations, many of which are illegal aliens? Stacking the number of illegal voters even higher!
First, as detailed in documents uncovered by Judicial Watch, the Obama Justice Department is partnering with the ACORN-connected Project Vote, President Obama’s former employer, to aggressively enforce a provision in the NVRA forcing states to register greater numbers of voters on public assistance (Obama’s “Food Stamp Army”). Meanwhile, the Obama Justice Department is simultaneously ignoring a stipulation in the law that requires states to undertake reasonable measures to keep clean voter registration lists.
The Justice Department’s dereliction of duty under Obama is precisely how you end up with states that have more than 100% of the number of eligible voters on its voter registration lists.
When states do try to increase election security, the DOJ intervenes, as it has done in Texas and South Carolina (see below) to prevent election integrity measures from being implemented.
Most recently, as I mentioned last week, DOJ is opposing Florida’s Section 8 efforts to remove non-citizens from the voting rolls. Florida took action to clean its voter registration list after receiving one of JW’s warning letters. The leftist operatives at the Holder Justice Department weren’t happy about it. And so, on May 31, 2012, T. Christian Herren, Chief of the Voting Section of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, wrote a letter to Florida officials ordering a halt to the voting roll list maintenance process!
(Herren’s name might be familiar to you. As JW uncovered, he was the key point of contact for former ACORN attorney and current Project Vote Director of Advocacy, Estelle Rogers, who recommended to Herren three candidates for jobs within the DOJ’s voting rights division.)
Thankfully, Florida is fighting back against the DOJ’s efforts to keep illegal voters on the state’s registration lists. On Monday, the state filed a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security to gain access to a federal database that will assist the state in removing ineligible voters from its list. J. Christian Adams, a former DOJ attorney who is partnering with us in our litigation to clean up the election rolls, got it right in a commentary piece reacting to the DOJ’s attack on Florida:
A former Justice Department official tells me tonight it is “deliciously ironic that the first and only NVRA Section 8 case brought by the Justice Department is one seeking to block the removal of ineligible voters.”
I’m usually a fan of delicious irony, but this latest outrage from Obama’s embattled attorney general marks a new corrupt low, even for him.
Of course we are pleased and proud to have helped prod Florida into action in the first place, and we are glad to see the state is sticking to its guns.
So we know how the Obama Justice Department is undermining election integrity. Now here’s the why: The Obama Justice Department is doing everything in its power to ensure the re-election of Barack Obama, lawful and otherwise.
Judicial Watch does not support or oppose candidates for public office. No matter who is elected, the law requires that it be done according to law and without fraud. The integrity of the voting process is fundamental to the proper functioning of our democracy. We have memorials across the nation dedicated to those Americans who fought and died to preserve this right and we have no intention of seeing it sullied by dirty elections.
For this reason, Judicial Watch launched its 2012 Election Integrity Project.
Our warning letters and lawsuits involving the NVRA are but one component of this campaign, but a critical one. As True the Vote’s Catherine Engelbrecht points out: “This [Indiana] lawsuit is a historic step in restoring integrity to the American system of electing its leaders. Dirty election rolls can lead to election fraud and stolen elections.”
As I say, the Obama Justice Department has initiated a multi-pronged strategy to ensure the re-election of Barack Obama. First, add more voters onto the rolls who are likely to re-elect Obama, whether they are legally eligible or not. And, second, block any attempt by states to clean up its voter registration lists.
The Obama gang recently put the latter strategy into play in South Carolina after the state passed a Voter ID law.
In May 2011, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley signed R54 – a bill that requires voters to show one of five government-issued IDs, such as driver’s licenses or passports, before casting ballots.
However, under the Voting Rights Act (Section 5), some states, including South Carolina, must have changes to voting laws “pre-cleared” by the Justice Department. And what do you think the Obama Justice Department had to say when South Carolina sought their permission to add this voter integrity provision?
On December 23, 2011, the Obama DOJ notified South Carolina that it was denying “preclearance” for Section 5 of the state’s election integrity law, claiming the provision would suppress minority voting. This was the first law of its type in 20 years to be denied “preclearance” by the DOJ.
Just like Florida, the State of South Carolina fought back. On February 7, 2012, the state sued Attorney General Eric Holder to have a three-judge panel declare R54 consistent with federal law.
As South Carolina argues in its lawsuit, its new voter ID measures “are not a bar to voting but a temporary inconvenience no greater than the inconvenience inherent in voting itself.” South Carolina also argues that its law is similar to a law passed by the State of Indiana that was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2008.
(Importantly, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and ACLU of South Carolina filed a motion to intervene in the lawsuit on February 24, 2012.)
As part of its continuing 2012 Election Integrity Project, Judicial Watch is investigating the DOJ’s controversial decision to block South Carolina from cleaning up its voter registration lists.
On June 6, 2012 we filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Obama Department of Justice (DOJ). And here’s what we’re after pursuant to FOIA requests originally filed with the DOJ on February 6, 2012:
Any and all records regarding, concerning or related to the Civil Rights Division’s denial of pre-clearance of Section 5 of South Carolina Act R54 (A27 H3003) pursuant to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, 42 U.S.C. § 1973c.;
Any and all records of communication regarding, concerning or related to South Carolina Act R54 (A27 H3003) between any official or employee of the Civil Rights Division and any other individual or entity.
The DOJ acknowledged receipt of the request on February 16, 2012. By law, a response was due no later than March 29, 2012. However, to date the DOJ has failed to respond.
There is no doubt the Obama Justice Department is acting as a legal front for the Obama campaign and leftist special interest groups. South Carolina’s photo ID provision is a lawful attempt to ensure the integrity of every vote. But the Justice Department has no interest in stopping voter fraud because this would interfere with the effort to re-elect Barack Obama by hook or by crook.
The secrecy we are fighting in court suggests that Holder’s agency has something to hide. The American people have a right to know how why the Obama administration has such a distaste for clean elections.
Here’s another public official with a seeming distaste for clean elections. Rep. Lincoln Davis (D-TN). Read on and I’ll show you why…
In a perfect example of campaign histrionics, one Tennessee Congressman is attempting to throw out a law designed to keep voter registration lists clean over a simple clerical error.
Allow me to explain.
On Super Tuesday, March 6, 2012, Tennessee Democrat Congressman Lincoln Davis discovered that his name had been removed from a voter registration list by mistake. Overall, it appears election officials removed six eligible voters from the voter registration list in error. Now these voters were reinstated after the error was discovered. And election officials at the polling station reportedly advised Rep. Davis that although his name was not on the voter registration list, he could lawfully submit a “provisional ballot.”
(The provisional ballot law, created as part of the Help America Vote Act of 2002, ensures that anyone who claims to be eligible to vote in a precinct can submit their vote when they show up at the polls even if their name is not on the registered voter list. The vote will be considered valid once the eligibility of the voter has been subsequently confirmed.)
However, rather than taking advantage of the provisional ballot provision, Rep. Davis elected to go another way. He filed a lawsuit seeking an injunction against any further attempt by Tennessee to clean up its voter registration lists.
Once again, Judicial Watch stepped into the middle of this debate, filing an amicus curiae brief on June 8, 2012 with the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, Nashville Division in support of Tennessee’s attempts to purge ineligible voters from the state’s voter registration lists.
Judicial Watch’s brief, jointly submitted with the Allied Educational Foundation, is in response to Rep. Davis’s lawsuit. (The Tennessee Democratic Party is a “Proposed Plaintiff” in the lawsuit.)
Judicial Watch’s amicus curiae brief notes that “provisional voting is the remedy Congress intended for remedying voter list mistakes” and Rep. Davis’s lawsuit is a “needlessly drastic” response:
Plaintiffs allege that Tennessee improperly removed approximately six (6) names from the voter rolls, an oversight which has since been corrected. Plaintiffs nonetheless ask for a needlessly drastic preliminary injunction to address a minor clerical mistake that by law is remedied by the availability of a provisional ballot and in fact has already been remedied by the appropriate election officials. If this Court rules in favor of Plaintiffs, it could have a chilling effect on other States’ efforts to prevent election fraud by performing ordinary voter list maintenance.
We further argue that Rep. Davis’s lawsuit has the “potential to worsen an already significant nationwide problem,” as voter rolls in many states remain rife with errors and are often highly inaccurate. (We note the Pew Charitable Trust research I referenced earlier that shows that approximately 24 million active voter registrations throughout the United States – or one out of every eight registrations – are either no longer valid or are significantly inaccurate.)
According to Judicial Watch’s amicus curiae brief, The Help America Vote Act of 2002 works in conjunction with the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) to “both increase lawful access to the ballot box and to prevent fraud by increasing election integrity.”
But in order for these laws to work, they must be enforced!
Unfortunately, our nation’s top law enforcement agency, the Obama Justice Department, is aggressively enforcing a provision of the NVRA that requires states to register voters on public assistance, while ignoring/undermining a provision that requires states to ensure that each voter is eligible to vote. The Justice Department has also filed lawsuits against Texas and South Carolina to frustrate attempts by election officials in those states to implement voter integrity initiatives such as voter ID laws and has also taken aim at Florida as well (as noted above).
It is now clear that the political Left is intent on blocking even the most modest attempts to ensure clean and fair elections. Rep. Davis’s lawsuit would result in irreparable harm to the integrity of the voting process in Tennessee over a minor clerical error. Lawsuits such as this are inviting Election Day chaos across the country. And recent events in Florida show that the politicized Obama Justice Department stands in opposition to clean voter rolls and election integrity.
Judicial Watch, as you know, is committed to fighting for election integrity. It is among the most important initiatives we have ever undertaken. Read more here. You can see how our lawyers are doing as much as possible in the courts for our values. Because this issue is so important, could you take an extra step this week and pass this email around to your contact lists (I know many of you do this already!). We must alert more Americans about election integrity and enlist more to join our movement to uphold the rule of law and ensure a clean election in 2012.
One last note, this week marks the birthday of our U.S. Army (on June 14, 2012 which is also Flag Day). Congratulations to the institution that has done so much to protect our nation!
Until next week…