Judicial Watch, True the Vote Reach Historic Settlement with State of Ohio in Lawsuit over Clean Voter Rolls
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch and True the Vote announced today that they have reached a settlement in an August 30, 2012, lawsuit against election officials in the State of Ohio, resulting in an agreement by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted to take a series of actions to further ensure that the state is in compliance with the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA). The Judicial Watch/True the Vote lawsuit charged Ohio election officials with failing to take reasonable steps to maintain clean voter registration lists as required by Section 8 of the NVRA.
Under the terms of the settlement, which extend through November 2018, the State of Ohio specifically agreed to take the following nine actions relating to voter roll list maintenance and NVRA compliance:
a. To participate in the State and Territorial Exchange of Vital Events (STEVE) to obtain out-of-state death information.
b. To participate in the Interstate Voter Registration Cross-Check program administered by the Kansas Secretary of State to identify registered voters who have moved out-of-state.
c. To use Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles data to identify registered voters who move within Ohio, with frequent updates being sent to local officials.
d. To use an online voter registration change of address website to encourage voters to keep their registration information current.
e. To conduct a special, monthly, duplicate registration elimination program, within defined technical thresholds, for all Ohio County boards of election voter lists.
f. To keep online, and available for public access, a current voter registration list.
g. To require the county boards of election to send accurate survey information to the Secretary of State’s Office, to be compiled and forwarded to the Election Assistance commission for its NVRA-related surveys.
h. To use reasonable efforts to promote the expanded use by recent college graduates of Ohio’s online voter registration change of address system, including education to remind college graduates to keep their voter registration addresses and information current and to request necessary updates; and to endeavor to coordinate these activities in conjunction with Ohio’s colleges and universities.
i. To direct boards of election to send confirmation notices annually to voters who may be inactive; and to query boards of election on a regular basis as to whether this direction is being followed.
The legal action against the State of Ohio began in February 2012 when Judicial Watch sent a letter to Husted notifying him that the state was in violation of Section 8 of the NVRA. Judicial Watch subsequently filed its lawsuit in partnership with True the Vote on August 12.
“This settlement marks a milestone in the fight to make certain that voter rolls are being properly maintained across the state; helping to assure the public that the most basic principles of federal election law are being upheld; and helping to restore Ohioans’ faith in the integrity of our voting system,” said True the Vote President Catherine Engelbrecht.
“Election officials in the State of Ohio are to be commended for shouldering their responsibility to maintain clean voter registration lists. This is a historic settlement, the first of its kind in the history of the National Voter Registration Act. Dirty election rolls can lead to voter and election fraud. Under the terms of this groundbreaking settlement, the people of Ohio can now rest easier that their elections will be cleaner, beginning with the 2014 elections. The problem of dirty rolls is a nationwide problem, and Ohio’s good faith steps to address it can serve as a model for other states,” stated Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.
As part of its Election Integrity Project, Judicial Watch found that voter rolls in a number of states contained a great number of registrations for individuals who were ineligible to vote. Judicial Watch notified a dozen states that they must clean up their voter registration lists or face lawsuits. Judicial Watch and True the Vote subsequently filed lawsuits against election officials in Indiana and Ohio, and prompted the state of Florida and other states, without litigation, to remove thousands of ineligible voters from state registration lists. According to independent research published by Pew Charitable Trusts in February 2012, 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.
Judicial Watch is partnering with True the Vote and the Election Law Center’s J. Christian Adams, who previously served in the voting rights section of the Department of Justice, on a nationwide campaign to ensure the integrity of elections. The groups are represented in Ohio by the law firm Langdon Law LLC.
Judicial Watch Files Comments with Key Federal Agency in Support of Arizona, Kansas, Georgia Efforts to Require Voters Provide Proof of Citizenship
Election Assistance Commission failure to amend Federal Form to provide proof of citizenship “would undermine Americans’ confidence that their elections are being conducted fairly ….”
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch today announced that it has filed comments with the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) in support of efforts by Arizona, Kansas, and Georgia to amend the National Voter Registration Voter Registration Mail Application (a federal form) to require voter registration applicants to provide proof of citizenship. Arizona and Kansas have sued the EAC to force such action; Georgia has issued a formal letter of request.
Filing in support of the state actions, Judicial Watch argued that “Under Section 8 of the NVRA [National Voter Registration Act], states are under a federal obligation to assure that non-citizens neither register nor vote.” It added, “A failure to allow states to require such information would undermine Americans’ confidence that their elections are being conducted fairly and honestly, and would thwart states’ ability to comply with the election integrity obligations imposed by federal law.”
Stating that there are “good reasons to believe that the public needs to be reassured on this point,” Judicial Watch commented:
In poll after poll, for some time now, large segments of the American populace have expressed their dismay with various aspects of our electoral system. A Rasmussen poll from August of 2013 reported that only 39% of Americans believe elections are fair. In 2012, a Monmouth University poll reported that more than two-thirds of registered voters thought voter fraud was a problem. In 2008, when a Gallup poll asked respondents around the world whether they had “confidence in the honesty of elections,” 53% of Americans said that they did not.
Arguing that “routine failure of certain states to comply with their voter list accuracy obligations … is quickly becoming a national, nonpartisan issue,” Judicial Watch commented:
For example, the Pew Research Center on the States released an astonishing report in 2012 noting that ‘[a]pproximately 2.75 million people have active registrations in more than one state.’ That same report observed that “24 million – one of every eight – active voter registrations in the United States are no longer valid or are significantly inaccurate,” and that “[m]ore than 1.8 million deceased individuals are listed as active voters.” Non-citizen voter registration fraud is a contributor to this problem.
Judicial Watch also cited the failure of the EAC to have a quorum in order to strengthen the arguments of Arizona, Kansas, and Georgia that they be granted a federal form amendment. According to the complaint filed by Arizona and Kansas, the EAC has not had a quorum since December 2010; has had no commissioners since December 2011; no executive director since then; and no general counsel since May 2012.
Judicial Watch commented:
Judicial Watch notes that only a quorum of EAC Commissioners can refuse the states’ requests. An Acting Director lacks authority to take official regulatory action for the Commission. See 42 U.S.C. § 15328 (action by the EAC can be authorized “only with the approval of at least three of its members.”). Because there is no quorum of Commissioners, the EAC cannot reject the states’ request.
On August 21, 2013, the states of Kansas and Arizona jointly filed a complaint against the EAC asking the federal court in Topeka, Kansas, to force the agency to require proof of citizenship in the state-specific instructions on the National Mail Voter Registration Form. On August 1, the state of Georgia sent a letter to the EAC asking the same. The EAC had rebuffed previous requests for modifications, blaming a lack of quorum on the commission.
In filing their lawsuit, Kansas and Arizona cited the June 2013, Supreme Court decision in Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona Inc. While the Court ruled that the NVRA “precludes Arizona from requiring a federal form applicant to submit information beyond that required by the form itself,” it also stipulated that states are free to petition the EAC to add the proof of citizenship requirement and, if the EAC does not act or rejects the request, take it to court.
“For the EAC to use its own inability to convene a quorum as an excuse to contravene the right of the states of Arizona, Kansas, and Georgia to protect the integrity of the ballot box is a travesty,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Gladstone’s axiom that ‘Justice delayed is justice denied’ has never been more obvious than in this situation. And the EAC ought to stop its stonewalling and let justice proceed.”
The EAC comments are not the first time Judicial Watch has intervened on behalf of Arizona in the state’s efforts to oppose certain aspects of illegal immigration. In December 2012, Judicial Watch filed an amicus curiae brief in support of Arizona’s proof of citizenship voter registration law. In February 2012 Judicial Watch filed two separate amici curiae briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of SB 1070, also known as the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act. Judicial Watch filed an amicus curiae brief on behalf of former Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce, author of SB 1070, and a separate briefon behalf of State Legislators for Legal Immigration (SLLI). In both briefs, Judicial Watch argued that SB 1070 utilized the state of Arizona’s well-established police powers and was therefore not preempted by federal law.
Freedom of Information Lawsuit also Seeks Records of DOJ Communications with the NAACP, Demos, Project Vote, and Acorn-Successor New England United for Justice
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit on March 27, 2013, against the Obama Department of Justice (DOJ) to obtain records revealing “any and all” communications between the DOJ Civil Rights Division and New England United for Justice (NEU4J), NEU4J President Maude Hurd, the NAACP, Demos, and Project Vote regarding the enforcement and implementation of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) in Massachusetts. Judicial Watch filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (Judicial Watch v. DOJ) (No. 1:13-cv-00398)).
The Judicial Watch lawsuit came in response to the failure of the DOJ to comply with two separate FOIA requests regarding voter registration activities in Massachusetts. In both cases, the DOJ not only failed to produce the records in the legally allotted time period, it also failed to indicate when the records would be produced, as required by law.
On May 24, 2012, Judicial Watch submitted a FOIA request to the DOJ Civil Rights Division requesting the following information dating back to January 1, 2011:
- Any and all records of communications between any official or employee of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and any officer, employee or representative of New England United for Justice (NEU4J), the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and/or Demos, regarding, concerning, or related to the implementation and enforcement of the National Voter Registration Act in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
- And an all records of communications between any official of the Department of Justice and Ms. Maude Hurd, the President of New England United for Justice.
By a letter dated May 29, 2012, the DOJ Civil Rights Division acknowledged receiving the Judicial Watch FOIA on May 24, and was required by law to respond by June 21, 2012. It failed to do so.
On August10, 2012, Judicial Watch sent a FOIA request to the Civil Rights Division requesting the following information also dating back to January 1, 2011:
- Andy and all records of communications between any official or employee of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and any officer, employee or representative of New England United for Justice (NEU4J), Demos, and/or Project Vote regarding, concerning, or related to voter registration in Massachusetts.
By a letter dated August 21, 2012, the Civil Rights Division acknowledged receiving the FOIA request on the same day, and was required by law to respond by September 19, 2012. Once again, it failed to do so.
The Judicial Watch lawsuit filed on March 27 asks that the District Court order the Obama DOJ to “conduct a search for any and all responsive records” to the FOIA and “produce, by a certain date, any and all non-exempt records,” along with an index of all records the department continues to declare exempt. It also asks the Court grant Judicial Watch attorney’s fees and additional litigation costs.
According to a Judicial Watch analysis of records, NEU4J is the reincarnation of ACORN in New England, the nationwide Obama-tied community organization famous for operating fraudulent voter registration drives during the 2008 presidential campaign. Judicial Watch research found that ACORN’s Boston office rebranded into New England United for Justice, headed by Maude Hurd, the former president of ACORN and ACORN Housing.
In the final days of the senatorial election campaign between then-Sen. Scott Brown current Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Hurd orchestrated a move by the state of Massachusetts to send out voter registration letters to some 500,000 welfare recipients. The mailing was forced through by the Department of Transitional Assistance after a lawsuit pushed by Hurd’s New England United for Justice. The mailings, which were seen to directly aid the Warren campaign, cost taxpayers nearly $275,000. The state also has to advertise on TV and radio stations, again targeting welfare recipients.
In March, the Department of Justice’s Office of Inspector General issued a report raising questions about inappropriate coordination and conduct on this election integrity issue by the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division and outside left-wing groups. Thomas Perez, President Obama’s nominee for Labor Secretary, had headed the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division.
“Tom Perez and the Obama Justice Department have a terrible record on transparency,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “They have stonewalled the American people for nearly a year now on these key election integrity and ethics issues. It seems clear from our investigations that leftist special interest groups are running the Justice Department and we need to know the full extent of this corrupt partnership – especially on this matter of election integrity.”
Judicial Watch’s lawsuit is part of the organization’s comprehensive Election Integrity Project, which seeks to force states to maintain accurate voter registration lists, while upholding voter integrity measures, such as Voter ID laws. Judicial Watch has been highly critical of the Obama Justice Department’s efforts to enforce section 7 of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), which seeks to expand the number of registered voters on public assistance, while failing to enforce Section 8 of the NVRA, which requires states to maintain clean voter registration lists. Judicial Watch also has an ongoing investigation into other illicit collusion between the Justice Department and leftist special interest groups.
Grassroots Public Interest Groups Seek Court Permission to Intervene to Defend Florida Clean-up Efforts: ‘…not only are the State of Florida’s list maintenance activities valid, proper, and timely, but… they are also required under federal law.’
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and fights government corruption, announced today that it has filed a Motion for Intervention with its client True the Vote to defend the State of Florida’s efforts to clean up voter registration lists against an Obama administration lawsuit (The United States of America v. State of Florida and Ken Detzner (No. 4:12-cv-285)).
Florida initiated a systematic effort to remove ineligible voters from its voter registration lists after Judicial Watch filed a letter of inquiry with Florida election officials on February 6, 2012.
Judicial Watch alerted the State of Florida that failure to maintain clean voter registration lists violates Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA). In response to Florida’s efforts to comply with the NVRA, the Obama administration filed a lawsuit on June 12, 2012, asking a federal court to enjoin the state from continuing its purge of illegal voters.
According to Judicial Watch’s motion, filed jointly with Judicial Watch client True the Vote on June 26, 2012, with the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida, Tallahassee Division:
[Judicial Watch and True the Vote] seek to enter this lawsuit in order to demonstrate that, not only are the State of Florida’s list maintenance activities valid, proper, and timely, but that they also are required under federal law. Intervention will ensure that the organizational interests of Proposed Intervener True the Vote and the rights and interest of the members of Proposed Intervener Judicial Watch, Inc. are adequately protected and preserved.
As reported by The Associated Press, the State of Florida ordered the removal of 53,000 dead voters from its lists while identifying an additional 2,700 non-citizens registered to vote. Press reports suggest the number of non-citizen voters in the state could be as high as 180,000.
Judicial Watch’s actions in Florida are part of its 2012 Election Integrity Project. According to a comprehensive Judicial Watch investigation, in addition to Florida and Indiana, a number of other states also appear to have problems with inaccurate voter registration lists, including: Mississippi, Iowa, Missouri, Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Alabama, and California. Judicial Watch has put election officials on notice in these states that they must maintain accurate voter registration lists consistent with Section 8 of the NVRA or face litigation to enforce the federal law.
On June 11, 2012, Judicial Watch (along with co-plaintiff True the Vote) filed a federal lawsuit against the State of Indiana for failure to comply with voter list maintenance provisions of the NVRA. J. Christian Adams, a former civil rights attorney with the Department of Justice, is of counsel to the groups on these legal actions. The groups are also represented in Florida by the firm, Radey, Thomas, Yon & Clark.
“The Obama Justice Department is evidently hostile to the idea of clean and fair elections,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “It is shameful that the Justice Department is now in court trying to stop Florida from fulfilling its legal obligation to remove non-citizen, ineligible voters from the voting rolls. We look forward to defending the voting rights of our supporters, the rule of law, and election integrity from an unprecedented attack from this politicized Justice Department.”
“According to polls, most Americans agree that Florida should be making efforts to ensure people who are not eligible to vote are kept off of the voter registration rolls. Not only is this common sense, it is what the law requires. It’s disappointing that the Justice Department is more interested in taking extreme legal positions than protecting the integrity of the 2012 elections,” said True the Vote President Catherine Engelbrecht.
A recent report by non-partisan Pew Charitable Trusts (Pew) 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.
Dozen States in Potential Violation of National Voter Registration Act: Voting Rolls Have More Registered Voters than Voting-Age Population
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch, the organization that investigates and fights government corruption, announced the launch of its 2012 Election Integrity Project to pressure states and localities, through Judicial Watch lawsuits if necessary, to clean up voter registration rolls pursuant to Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA). A Judicial Watch investigation based upon publicly available data indicates voter rolls in the following states appear to contain the names of individuals who are ineligible to vote: Mississippi, Iowa, Indiana, Missouri, Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Florida, Alabama, California, and Colorado. The Election Integrity Project will be conducted in partnership with True the Vote and the Election Law Center.
Judicial Watch sent its initial warning letters on February 7, 2012, to election officials in Indiana and Ohio, as well as letters of inquiry to Florida and California officials, investigating problematic voting lists in those states. Additional letters are forthcoming.
According to Judicial Watch’s investigation, there appear to be more individuals on voter registration lists in these states than there are individuals eligible to vote, including individuals who are deceased. Judicial Watch’s initial warning letters notified election officials in Ohio and Indiana that they are required by law to “maintain accurate lists of eligible voters for use in conducting elections,” and that Judicial Watch is prepared to take legal action if election officials fail to clean up their voter rolls:
Allowing the names of ineligible voters to remain on the voting rolls harms the integrity of the electoral process and undermines voter confidence in the legitimacy of elections… As the top election officials… it is your responsibility under federal law to conduct a program that reasonably ensures that the lists of eligible voters are accurate…
We hope our concerns can be resolved amicably. However, with the November 2012 election on the horizon and in light of the importance of Section 8 of the NVRA to ensuring the integrity and legitimacy of the electoral process, we must emphasize the importance of timeliness. Accordingly, if we believe you do not intend to correct the above-identified problems, a lawsuit seeking declaratory and injunctive relief may be necessary.
As Judicial Watch makes clear in its letters, under Section 8 of the NVRA, states must make a “reasonable effort” to clean up registration rolls. Section 8 also requires states to 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.”
Election fraud was a significant concern during the 2008 and 2010 election seasons, with ACORN/Project Vote being linked to massive voter registration fraud. A total of 70 ACORN employees in 12 states have been convicted of voter registration fraud. As documented in a July 2009 report by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, of the 1.3 million registrations Project Vote/ACORN submitted in the 2008 election cycle, more than one-third were invalid.
Judicial Watch has uncovered documents showing that, rather than taking action to enforce Section 8 of the NVRA, the Obama Department of Justice (DOJ) is now working with ACORN-front Project Vote, Barack Obama’s former employer, to push for strict enforcement of Section 7 of the NVRA relating to welfare office voter registration obligations. The purpose of this campaign is evidently to use voter registration laws to register greater numbers of low-income voters, widely considered to be an important voting demographic for the Obama presidential campaign.
Policy changes prompted by stricter enforcement of Section 7 have resulted in increased incidents of voter registration errors. For example, a separate Judicial Watch investigation found that the percentage of invalid voter registration forms from Colorado public assistance agencies was four times the national average after Project Vote successfully forced the state to implement new policies for increasing the registration of public assistance recipients during the 2008 and 2010 election seasons.
Judicial Watch notes in its letters that while Attorney General Eric Holder appears intent on enforcing Section 7 of the NVRA, which will yield an increased risk of voter fraud, he apparently has no interest in enforcing Section 8 to ensure clean elections: “While you may be aware that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has prioritized enforcement of Section 7 of the NVRA, which seeks to expand opportunities to register to vote, the Attorney General has not demonstrated any similar interest in prioritizing enforcement of the list maintenance provisions of Section 8 of the NVRA. Nonetheless, Section 8 is an important counterpart to Section 7. The two provisions represent a carefully crafted compromise by the U.S. Congress to increase both voter registration and the integrity of voter rolls.”
“President Obama and the Holder Justice Department evidently have no interest in clean elections this year, so this responsibility has now fallen to Judicial Watch. And given the rampant election fraud that occurred during the last two election cycles, this is a matter of the highest priority as we head into the 2012 election season. It is simply impossible to have any faith in the integrity of an election where dead people remain on the voting rolls. This is a recipe for voter fraud and stolen elections,” stated Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.