Brief in Support of Tennessee’s Attempt to Remove Ineligible Voters from Voter Registration Lists
Judicial Watch filed an amicus curiae brief (Lincoln Davis v. Tre Hargett, Tennessee Secretary of State and Mark Goins, Tennessee Coordinator of Elections (No. 2:12-cv-00023)) 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 remove ineligible registrations from the state’s voter rolls. Judicial Watch’s brief, jointly submitted with the Allied Educational Foundation, is in response to a lawsuit filed by Rep. Lincoln Davis (D-TN) seeking an injunction to state’s effort to clean up its voter registration lists. The Tennessee Democratic Party is a “Proposed Plaintiff” in the lawsuit.
Rep. Davis filed his lawsuit after learning at a polling station on Super Tuesday that his name was removed from a voter registration list due to a clerical error. Overall, election officials removed six eligible voters from the voter registration list by mistake. These voters were reinstated after the error was discovered. 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. Rather than taking advantage of the provisional ballot provision, however, Rep. Davis elected to file a lawsuit instead.
According to Judicial Watch’s amicus curiae brief, “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.
Judicial Watch argues 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. According to research conducted by the Center for the States of the non-partisan Pew Charitable Trusts “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.”
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