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Judicial Watch, Inc. is a conservative, non-partisan educational foundation, which promotes transparency, accountability and integrity in government, politics and the law.

Judicial Watch, Inc. is a conservative, non-partisan educational foundation, which promotes transparency, accountability and integrity in government, politics and the law.

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Judicial Watch Sues California to Force Clean-Up of Voting Rolls

(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that it filed a lawsuit to force California to clean up its voter rolls. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Judicial Watch and the Libertarian Party of California, asks the court to compel California to make “a reasonable effort to remove the registrations of ineligible registrants from the voter rolls” as required by federal law (Judicial Watch Inc. and the Libertarian Party of CA v. Shirley Weber et al. (No. 2:24-cv-3750)).

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California to compel the defendants to comply with their voter list maintenance obligations under Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA).

The National Voter Registration Act requires states to “conduct a general program that makes a reasonable effort to remove” from the official voter rolls “the names of ineligible voters” who have died or changed residence. The law requires registrations to be cancelled when voters fail to respond to address confirmation notices and then fail to vote in the next two general federal elections.

In 2018, the Supreme Court confirmed that such removals are mandatory. In February 2023, Los Angeles County confirmed removal of 1,207,613 ineligible voters from its rolls since the year before, under the terms of a settlement agreement in a federal lawsuit Judicial Watch filed in 2017. (Legal pressure from Judicial Watch ultimately led to the removal of up to four million ineligible voters from voter rolls in New York, California, Pennsylvania, Colorado, North Carolina, Kentucky, Ohio, and elsewhere.)

Judicial Watch filed the latest lawsuit after uncovering a broad failure to clean up voter rolls in dozens of California counties.

The complaint details that, in correspondence with Judicial Watch, that California:

admit[ted] that 21 California counties removed five or fewer registrations pursuant to [the NVRA] …  for failing to respond to a Confirmation Notice and then failing to vote in two general federal elections … from November 2020 to November 2022. Sixteen of the 21 counties removed zero such registrations during this period. The 21 counties are: Alameda (1 such removal), Alpine (0), Calaveras (0), Imperial (0), Lake (1), Modoc (0), Placer (0), Plumas (0), San Benito (0), San Bernardino (0), San Luis Obispo (5), San Mateo (0), Santa Barbara (0), Santa Cruz (0), Shasta (0), Siskiyou (2), Solano (0), Stanislaus (0), Trinity (0), Ventura (0), and Yolo (2).

Together, these 21 counties reported a combined total of 11 removals under Section 8(d)(1)(B) during this two-year reporting period.

The complaint notes that “these 21 counties contain about 22% of the population of California.” The lawsuit alleges that, in Judicial Watch’s experience “based on years of enforcing the NVRA,” there “is no possible way any county” with such “absurdly small” removal numbers can be complying with the NVRA’s requirement “to cancel the registrations of voters who have become ineligible because of a change of residence.” The complaint points out that about 11.6% of California residents move each year, and that in the last year for which data are available (2022) “about 818,000 California residents moved out of state.”

The Judicial Watch lawsuit also points out that another 16 California counties could not even “tell how many registrations were removed pursuant to [the NVRA] … The 16 counties are: Del Norte, El Dorado, Inyo, Kern, Lassen, Marin, Mendocino, Merced, Mono, Nevada, Orange, Riverside, San Joaquin, Santa Clara, Sonoma, and Tulare.” These 16 counties together “contain about 28% of the population of California.”

“Dirty voting rolls can mean dirty elections. And California’s voting rolls continue to be a mess,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Judicial Watch litigation already caused the state to remove over a million outdated names from the rolls in California but our new lawsuit shows there is more work to do.”

Judicial Watch is a national leader in voting integrity and voting rights. As part of its work, Judicial Watch assembled a team of highly experienced voting rights attorneys who stopped discriminatory elections in Hawaii, and cleaned up voter rolls in across the country, among other achievements.

Robert Popper, a Judicial Watch senior attorney, leads its election law program. Popper was previously in the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, where he managed voting rights investigations, litigations, consent decrees, and settlements in dozens of states.

In March 2023, Judicial Watch filed a federal lawsuit against the Illinois State Board of Elections and its Executive Director, Bernadette Matthews, over their failure to clean Illinois’ voter rolls and to produce election-related records as required by federal law.

Judicial Watch in February 2024 filed a civil rights lawsuit on behalf of the Libertarian Party of Mississippi, challenging a Mississippi election law permitting absentee ballots to be received as long as five business days after Election Day.

In December 2023, Judicial Watch sent notice letters to election officials in the District of Columbia, California, and Illinois, notifying them of evident violations of the NVRA, based on their failure to remove inactive voters from their registration rolls. In response to Judicial Watch’s inquiries, Washington, D.C., officials admitted that they had not complied with the NVRA, promptly removed 65,544 outdated names from the voting rolls, promised to remove 37,962 more, and designated another 73,522 registrations as “inactive.”

In July 2023, Judicial Watch filed an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief, supporting the decision of the U.S. District Court for the District of Maine, which struck down Maine’s policy restricting the use and distribution of the state’s voter registration list (Public Interest Legal Foundation v. Shenna Bellows (No. 23-1361)). According to a national study conducted by Judicial Watch in 2020, Maine’s statewide registration rate was 101% of eligible voters.

In a separate lawsuit, Judicial Watch in July 2023 settled a federal election integrity lawsuit on behalf of the Illinois Conservative Union against the state of Illinois, the Illinois State Board of Elections, and its director, obtaining access to the current centralized statewide list of registered voters for the state.

In April 2023, Pennsylvania settled with Judicial Watch and admitted in court filings that it removed 178,258 ineligible registrations in response to communications from Judicial Watch. The settlement commits Pennsylvania and five of its counties to public reporting of statistics regarding their ongoing voter roll clean-up efforts for the next five years.

In March 2023, Colorado agreed to settle a Judicial Watch NVRA lawsuit alleging that Colorado failed to remove ineligible voters from its rolls. The settlement agreement requires Colorado to provide Judicial Watch with the most recent voter roll data for each Colorado county each year for six years.

Judicial Watch settled a federal election integrity lawsuit against New York City after the city removed 441,083 ineligible names from the voter rolls and promised to take reasonable steps going forward to clean its voter registration lists.

Kentucky also removed hundreds of thousands of old registrations after it entered into a consent decree to end another Judicial Watch lawsuit.

In February 2022, Judicial Watch settled a voter roll clean-up lawsuit against North Carolina and two of its counties after North Carolina removed over 430,000 inactive registrations from its voter rolls.

In March 2022, a Maryland court ruled in favor of Judicial Watch’s challenge to the Democratic state legislature’s “extreme” congressional-districts gerrymander.

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