Maryland Implies Judicial Watch Has Ties to Russian Agents in Shameful Effort to Hide Voter Rolls Mess
OCTOBER 16, 2018
Maryland officials have resorted to desperate measures to avoid giving Judicial Watch voter registration records—as required by federal law—by suggesting Judicial Watch is connected to Russian government agents. The absurd implication was made in a federal court document involving a lawsuit filed last summer as part of a national Election Integrity Project to clean up voter rolls. Maryland is one of 11 states with more registered voters than citizens of voting age, according to U.S. Census Bureau data examined as part of Judicial Watch’s ongoing investigation.
In notice-of-violation letters Judicial Watch warned it would sue the 11 states if the problems weren’t fixed. In Maryland’s case, there are more registered voters in Montgomery County, the state’s most populous, than citizens over the age of 18. Besides threatening legal action, Judicial watch’s notice letter to election officials requested access to Montgomery County voter registration lists to evaluate efforts to ensure the accuracy of eligible voter rolls during the past two years. Section 8(i) of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA) authorizes and entitles Judicial Watch to inspect and copy the requested voter lists. Maryland officials refuse to provide them, claiming that state law restricts the release of voter registration information to Maryland registered voters. The NVRA trumps any reservation the state may have and Judicial Watch is confident it will obtain the records.
Nevertheless, Judicial Watch had to sue in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland to gain access to the voter registration lists under federal law, noting that Section 8(i) of the NVRA contains no requirement that only an individual person or a registered voter may request the documents that the statute describes. Accordingly, Section 8(i) authorizes and entitles Judicial Watch to inspect and copy the requested voter lists. Maryland officials have chosen to dodge the law, refusing to provide the records and stonewalling with outlandish assertions during the pretrial discovery process. In a federal court document filed on behalf of State Administrator of Elections Linda H. Lamone, Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh tries to associate Judicial Watch with Russian government agents.
Here is the excerpt straight from the interrogatory filed in court by Maryland’s attorney general: “Identify any Russian nationals or agents of the Russian government with whom you have communicated concerning this lawsuit, Judicial Watch’s request for a copy of the list of registered voters in Montgomery County, Maryland, the purposes for which you are seeking a copy of the list of registered voters in Montgomery County, Maryland, and/or any broader effort to obtain copies of similar lists from other jurisdictions of which Judicial Watch’s request for a copy of the list of registered voters in Montgomery County, Maryland, is a part.” This shows that Maryland officials are using a baseless allegation to retaliate against an organization and its supporters because of their conservative political views, a violation of the First Amendment.
This week Judicial Watch responded to the plainly frivolous request as part of the pretrial process. There is not a shred of evidence or allegation in any pleading, document or even news report of any communications or associations between Judicial Watch and Russian nationals or agents of the Russian government. Maryland officials knew that when they made the egregious request for documents they believed did not exist solely to associate Judicial Watch with an inflammatory, partisan fight making national headlines. This reflects negatively on Lamone and the Maryland State Board of Elections and both should be ashamed. “It’s completely outrageous,” said Robert Popper, director of Judicial Watch’s Election Integrity Project and a former deputy chief of the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department. “A government agency is taking Democratic talking points to beat someone up for suing them.”
Other states that Judicial Watch is forcing to clean up voter rolls include Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina and Tennessee. In California, Judicial Watch found more registered voters than voting-age citizens in 11 counties, including Imperial (102%), Lassen (102%), Los Angeles (112%), Monterey (104%), San Diego (138%), San Francisco (114%), San Mateo (111%), Santa Cruz (109%), Solano (111%), Stanislaus (102%), and Yolo (110%). Under Section 8 of the NVRA, states are required to make a reasonable effort to remove the names of ineligible voters from official lists due to “the death of the registrant” or “a change in the residence of the registrant,” and requires states to ensure noncitizens are not registered to vote. Many states don’t bother conducting reasonable voter registration list maintenance as mandated under the NVRA.
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