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Tom Fitton's Judicial Watch Weekly Update

Election Lawsuit Success!

Pennsylvania Settles Voter Roll Lawsuit with Judicial Watch
Records Show Climate Envoy John Kerry’s Office Employs 45 People
HHS Fails to Properly Vet Workers Who Care for Illegal Immigrant Minors
Judicial Watch Cleans Up Colorado Voting
As Busy Summer Travel Looms Biden Agency Sends Air Marshals Back to Mexican Border

 

Pennsylvania Settles Voter Roll Lawsuit with Judicial Watch

Here’s the latest in our many successes for cleaner elections.

Judicial Watch settled an important federal election integrity lawsuit against Pennsylvania and five of its counties. Pennsylvania admitted in court filings that it removed 178,258 ineligible registrations thanks to Judicial Watch pressure. The new settlement specifically commits Pennsylvania and five of its counties to extensive public reporting of statistics regarding their ongoing voter roll clean-up efforts for the next five years, along with a payment to us of $15,000 for legal costs and fees.

In November 2021, we filed an amended complaint in our ongoing National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) lawsuit. The amended complaint sought to compel Pennsylvania and five of its counties (Luzerne County, Cumberland County, Washington County, Indiana County and Carbon County) to comply with their voter list-maintenance obligations under Section 8 of the NVRA (Judicial Watch, Inc. v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, et al. (No. 1:20-cv-00708)).

In the settlement agreement, Pennsylvania agreed to publish the total number of registered and eligible voters (active and inactive) in the five counties by June 30 of each year on the Department of State’s website, for the next five years. It also agreed to publish the total number of address confirmation notices sent to registered voters and the number returned as undeliverable or not responded to. It also will publish the total number of voters removed from the registration rolls on account of death, or for failing to respond to an address confirmation notice and failing to vote in the two most recent federal general elections.

We alleged a “multi-year failure” to take reasonable steps to maintain accurate voter registration lists as required by federal law. On April 22, 2021, we sent a notice-of-violation letter to the Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth setting forth a range of violations by the Commonwealth and 27 identified counties.

In September 2021, Pennsylvania informed the court:

Upon receiving the [April 22, 2021] letter, the Secretary [of the Commonwealth] immediately took action by investigating the issues raised and working with the identified 27 counties to remove outstanding inactive voters who had failed to return a confirmation notice and did not participate in the subsequent two consecutive federal elections. With the Secretary’s assistance, the counties removed every single inactive voter eligible for removal from the rolls. The total inactive voters removed was 178,258.

Separately, a 2020 letter from us to Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, led to the removal of 69,000 outdated registrations. According to a January 14, 2020, CBS news report, “This mountain of faulty registrations has now courted the attention of the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch.” David Voye, Elections Manager for the county told CBS, “I would concede that we are behind on culling our rolls,” and that this had “been put on the backburner.” Allegheny County later confirmed to us on January 31, 2020 that the removals had occurred.

Pennsylvania’s election rolls are cleaner – and will remain cleaner – thanks to us.  This federal lawsuit settlement is good news for voters in Pennsylvania who want to ensure that only eligible voters are on voter rolls. Our remarkable run of litigation successes resulted in well over 2 million ineligible registrations being removed from voter rolls across the nation in the last two years!

As you know, we are a national leader in voting integrity and voting rights. As part of its work, we assembled a team of highly experienced voting rights attorneys who stopped discriminatory elections in Hawaii, and cleaned up voter rolls in California, Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky, among other achievements.

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

In February 2023, Los Angeles County confirmed removal of 1,207,613 ineligible voters from its rolls since last year, under the terms of a settlement agreement in a federal lawsuit that Judicial Watch filed in 2017.

We 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, we 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 our challenge to the Democratic state legislature’s “extreme” congressional gerrymander.

In May 2022, we sued Illinois on behalf of Congressman Mike Bost and two other registered Illinois voters to stop state election officials from extending Election Day for 14 days beyond the date established by federal law.

Robert Popper, a Judicial Watch senior attorney, leads our 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.

 

Records Show Climate Envoy John Kerry’s Office Employs 45 People

It’s pretty good work if you can get it.

Our FOIA lawsuit forced the release of an organizational chart from the U.S. State Department Office of the Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry, which shows that the office employs at least 45 people. We still don’t know exactly what they do.

We uncovered the record thanks to our September 2022 lawsuit against the State Department for records related to travel costs, calendars, and organizational charts for the Office of the Special Presidential Envoy for Climate (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1:22-cv-02844)). The Biden agency is releasing responsive records in batches to us every six weeks.

The organizational chart is titled “Special Presidential Envoy for Climate Big Picture Org Chart” and dated April 15, 2021. These positions include:

  • eight full-time employees (FTEs) positions;
  • 28 “3161s,” which are temporary direct-hires that are commonly referred to as “3161” after the governing federal law, 5 U.S. Code § 3161
  • three “detailees;”
  • two “fellows;”
  • one Intergovernmental Personnel Act “IPA” position and
  • three “contractor” positions.

The chart shows Kerry and his personal staff assistant at the top of the organization, with three separate divisions reporting to him, including a chief of staff, principal deputy envoy for climate, and a deputy envoy for climate. Additional offices reporting to the three divisions include: public affairs, communications, and stakeholder engagement; liaison to the National Climate Task Force; implementation and ambition team; negotiations team; global innovation and competitiveness team; public finance team; and private finance and multinational corporate strategy team.

On April 25, 2023, the Boston Herald reported, “House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) is threatening his subpoena power to see exactly what Kerry, the special envoy for climate, is up to.” In a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Chairman Comer requested details of Kerry’s Climate Office budget, a list of employees, communications with third parties and travel records. Kerry told the Herald that he does not plan to share a list of his office’s staff until October of 2024.

RealClearInvestigations reported on May 3, 2023, that in response to its FOIA request filed last year for a breakdown on how Kerry’s office spent its approximate $16.5 million 2022 budget, the State Department said it could not comply with the request until April 2025.

It is incredible that it took a federal lawsuit to find out that Kerry’s bloated climate office astonishingly employs at least 45 people and that we still have no idea what Kerry or his staff actually do under law. The on-going stonewalling about what Kerry does shows the Biden administration’s contempt for transparency, accountability and the basic right of the American people to know how their tax dollars are spent.

 

HHS Fails to Properly Vet Workers Who Care for Illegal Immigrant Minors

The Biden administration is engaging in child endangerment by the thousands by treating the tens of thousands of minors trafficked across our border not much better than the cartels who sent them here.. Our Corruption Chronicle blog reports.

The scandals keep piling up for the federal agency charged with caring for the mobs of illegal immigrant minors—Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC)—that enter the country through the southern border. It is known as the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) and operates under the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The latest transgression involves the agency’s failure to fully vet workers and contractors who care for the young migrants. It comes on the heels of a congressional hearing to address reports that show ORR lost contact with more than 85,000 UAC in the past two years and that two-thirds of all UAC who leave the agency’s care work illegal, full-time jobs, often in factories and in hazardous conditions.

A couple of years ago Judicial Watch obtained records from HHS documenting 33 incidents of physical and sexual abuse during a one-month period at shelters where the government houses UAC until they are relocated with a sponsor. Months earlier, the agency got slammed in a federal audit for failing to protect UAC from sexual misconduct at the facilities. During a six-month period alone, investigators from the HHS Inspector General’s office uncovered more than 750 incidents involving sexual misconduct at dozens of shelters housing minor detainees. The investigation was launched because ORR-funded facilities for years reported allegations of sexual and physical abuse of minors in their care, some resulting in criminal convictions. For example, in one case a facility employee was convicted of sexually abusing seven UAC and in another an employee was convicted of attempting to coerce a minor to engage in illicit sexual activity and exchanging explicit videos and images with others.

During the Obama administration, when the UAC influx was at its peak, ORR placed many of the underage migrants in abusive homes. Some were forced to become prostitutes or personal slaves, according to a shocking Senate investigation that ignited bipartisan fury at the time. It was ironic because the Obama administration claimed it was rescuing UAC from “persistent violence in Central America” only to make their lives worse in the U.S. Some of the illegal immigrant youngsters ended up with human traffickers while others were exploited for their labor and dozens were sexually assaulted, starved or forced to work as practical slaves. In one case six Guatemalan minors were placed with human traffickers that forced them to live in a decrepit trailer and work 12 hours a day on egg farms in the rural Ohio town of Marion. Another Guatemalan boy was forced to work 12 hours a day for his Virginia sponsor to repay a $6,500 smuggling debt and a boy from El Salvador was released to his abusive father even though the kid told authorities the father had a history of beating him.

Years later serious problems persist at ORR, which funds and oversees dozens of state-licensed care facilities to harbor young migrants when they arrive in the U.S. In fiscal year 2021 ORR provided shelter for an unprecedented 122,731 UAC, according to government figures, and this fiscal year the Department of Homeland Security has referred 128,904 UAC to ORR. Most of the migrants are over 14 years of age and 64% are boys. The majority (47%) come from Guatemala, followed by Honduras (29%), El Salvador (13%) and 11% from other countries. As of May 2, 2023, there are 8,492 unaccompanied children in ORR care and the average length of time a UAC remains in government custody is 29 days. “ORR is working to further reduce length of care in ways that do not jeopardize the safety or welfare of the children,” the agency writes in the document with the latest figures. It continues. “The important work happening in each of the facilities and programs in the ORR network around the country – work ORR has done successfully since 2003 – takes an experienced team of competent, hardworking men and women dedicated to the welfare of the children.”

The reality is that ORR is endangering the migrant kids by failing to properly vet employees who work with them, according to a new HHS IG investigation. A report issued this month blasts the agency for not conducting or documenting all required background checks and for failing to complete others in a timely manner. “In addition, ORR did not require the transportation services contractor we reviewed to conduct background checks on employees as required by ORR minimum standards,” the watchdog writes in its recently published findings. Investigators considered several facilities and conducted site visits during a two-month period. They found that ORR was not consistent with issuing waivers for FBI fingerprint checks and child abuse and neglect checks of employees at emergency intake sites, that public records checks used by the sites may not have been reliable and that several sites did not ensure secure facility access. Several employee background checks “included offenses that may have made the employee unsuitable to work with children in a childcare setting,” the IG found.

 

Judicial Watch Cleans Up Colorado Voting

Our chief investigative reporter, Micah Morrison, takes a look in Investigative Report at our success in cleaning up Colorado voter rolls.

Cleaning up dirty voter rolls is not easy or quick work. Exhibit A: Colorado.

Nearly three years ago, Judicial Watch filed a federal lawsuit in Colorado after gathering evidence that the state was a serial offender in failing to comply with the voter list maintenance requirements of the National Voter Registration Act. Why does this matter? The possibility of ineligible voters at the ballot box creates opportunities for fraud and corruption. As JW President Tom Fitton puts it: “Cleaner voter rolls mean cleaner elections.”

The JW lawsuit noted that studies had shown that a majority of Colorado counties had voter registration rates exceeding 100% of the eligible voting-age population. Think about that for a moment: dozens of Colorado counties were showing the presence of more voters than voting-eligible residents actually residing in the county! Federal data also showed that Colorado was lagging in the process of removing ineligible voter registrations.

According to the JW lawsuit, the voter registration rates and processing issues indicated “an ongoing, systemic problem with Colorado’s voter list maintenance efforts” that injured lawfully registered voters by “undermining their confidence in the integrity of the electoral process, discouraging their participation in the democratic process, and instilling in them the fear that their legitimate votes will be nullified or diluted.”

In March, the Colorado Secretary of State settled the case—a major victory for Judicial Watch, but more importantly, for Colorado voters. Even before the settlement, JW pressure had resulted in a 78% increase of Colorado voter roll removals, from roughly 172,000 to 306,000 per reporting period.

The key element of the Colorado settlement: for the next six years, the state will annually report to Judicial Watch on its progress in cleaning up voter rolls.

But dirty voter rolls are not the only election-integrity issue in Colorado. Last month, we reported on a Judicial Watch white paper on ERIC, the left-leaning Electronic Registration Information Center. Colorado is a member of ERIC. We found plenty of reasons for concern about ERIC, including ineffective voter-roll cleanup and sketchy data sharing practices. The Judicial Watch white paper warned that ERIC data sharing could be in violation of several federal statutes, including the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act, which regulates how Department of Motor Vehicle data can be shared.

In fact, DMV data sharing between ERIC and Colorado has landed the state in hot water. In October, Colorado Public Radio reported that Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold had mailed postcards to about 30,000 non-citizens notifying them how they could register to vote. By law, non-citizens are not permitted to vote in state and local elections.

According to the public radio report, “the problem occurred when the state compared a list of potential unregistered voters from a multi-state group [that is, ERIC] Colorado belongs to, with local DMV records. The DMV data included people who hold non-citizen driver’s licenses—which were created to allow people without legal residency to drive legally—but a formatting error caused the system not to flag them as ineligible.”

The public radio report noted that “the postcards, which were printed in English and Spanish and read in part, ‘A message from Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold’ inform the recipient ‘Our records indicate that you or your household may be eligible to vote, but do not appear to be registered at your current address.’”

We’ll be watching Colorado closely in the months and years ahead. You won’t read much about voter roll reform in the national press, but you can read all about it here at Judicial Watch. Nationwide, action by Judicial Watch has resulted in important electoral reforms and the removal of two million names from voter rolls over the past two years.

Stay tuned. There’s more to come.

 

As Busy Summer Travel Looms Biden Agency Sends Air Marshals Back to Mexican Border

Once again the Biden administration is putting air travelers at risk, according to our Corruption Chronicles blog:

With the busy summer season approaching for air travel, the Biden administration is once again compromising aviation security by plucking Federal Air Marshals (FAM) from their congressionally mandated duty of protecting the nation’s transportation system to help on the Mexican border. The highly skilled law enforcement agents will not be performing work related to their training, but rather babysitting illegal immigrants, conducting welfare checks, hospital watch and transportation services, according to Homeland Security sources interviewed by Judicial Watch. “They are disgusted,” said Sonya Hightower-LaBosco, a retired FAM who serves as executive director of the Air Marshal National Council. “They feel for their brothers and sisters in the Border Patrol, but this is not what they train for, and it leaves a big void in aviation safety.”

The assignments to the southern border begin this week, according to a memorandum circulated among FAM staff and shared with Judicial Watch. It says that all field offices will increase their deployment personnel beginning at the end of May through June 17 and that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is requesting 175 air marshals plus seven supervisors per “wave,” an increase of 26% “per wave.” That seems to indicate the deployment cycles’ substantial hike in officers from previous border assignments. A separate memo from a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) supervisor to agency field operation managers says the “can-do approach by your folks in supporting this important mission is recognized and appreciated.” No mention of how it will compromise the “important mission” of protecting the flying public, especially during peak summer travel.

FAM operates under the beleaguered Transportation Security Administration (TSA), which was created after 9/11 to prevent another terrorist attack. Air marshals are charged with protecting commercial passenger flights by deterring and countering the risk of terrorist activity and officers, specially trained aviation security specialists, are outraged that they are being sent to the southern border again. Back in October Judicial Watch reported on the first deployment of FAM to the Mexican border to assist with “a surge in irregular migration.” Officers were pulled from their critical duty of protecting commercial planes flagged for terrorist threats to conduct hospital watch, entry control, welfare checks and transportation services for migrants. A few months later, under pressure from the Air Marshal National Council, the Biden administration stopped sending FAM to the Mexican border, a reckless practice that left aircraft at risk by taking away 150-200 agents monthly, according to DHS sources.

The controversial program’s reinstatement could not come at a worse time, on the heels of credible terrorist threats as airports get busier for summer travel. Al Qaeda recently announced it is planning attacks in the U.S., possibly involving planes and using “new techniques and tactics” and FBI Director Christopher Wray has told Congress that both Al Qaeda and the Islamic State intend to carry out or inspire largescale attacks in the U.S. Even without the Mexican border assignments, the agency is spread thin, according to the Air Marshal National Council, which fired off a letter this week to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and TSA Director Tirrell Stevenson requesting the border missions stop immediately to thwart another 9/11. “FAMs barley cover 1% of flights as it stands today, and the current workforce is depleted with no clear path on hiring additional resources,” the letter states. Ordering FAM to the southern border will “make our homeland security even more vulnerable to attack,” and further deteriorate the morale of the workforce, the letter continues. Afterall, during their most recent stint along the Mexican border, the specialized law enforcement agents mostly made sandwiches for illegal immigrants, drove them around like Uber and picked up supplies, Hightower-LaBosco told Judicial Watch.

Until next week,


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