Judicial Watch Victory: Federal Court Orders Maryland to Produce Voter Registration List Data to Judicial Watch
Rules state’s refusal to provide Judicial Watch with Montgomery County voter list is quibbling over ‘semantics’ and ‘purposeless obstruction’
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that a federal court has ordered the State of Maryland to produce voter list data for Montgomery County, the state’s biggest county. The court ruling comes in the Judicial Watch lawsuit filed July 18, 2017, against Montgomery County and the Maryland State Boards of Elections under the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA).
The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Baltimore Division (Judicial Watch vs. Linda H. Lamone, et al. (No. 1:17-cv-02006)). The decision follows NVRA-related Judicial Watch successes in California and Kentucky that could lead to removal of up to 1.85 million inactive voters from voter registration lists. The NVRA requires states to take reasonable steps to clean up its voting rolls and to make documents about its voter list maintenance practices available to anyone who asks.
Judicial Watch had sought the Maryland voter list data after discovering that there were more registered voters in Montgomery County than citizens over the age of 18 who could register. U.S. District Court Judge Ellen Lipton Hollander rejected Maryland’s objections to providing the voter list information under Section 8(i) of the National Voter Registration Act:
If Judicial Watch had submitted requests for voter registration data, corresponding to the thousands of Montgomery County voters, the State would have been required to produce each record, pursuant to Section 8(i). Instead, Judicial Watch merely submitted a single request for a voter list containing and compiling the same information about the thousands of voters in Montgomery County. Although both scenarios seek the same information, defendants believe that the NVRA would require compliance with only one of them. Rejecting Judicial Watch’s request based on semantics would be tantamount to requiring Judicial Watch to make thousands of separate requests. Neither the NVRA, the Court, nor common sense can abide such a purposeless obstruction.
Organizations such as Judicial Watch have the resources and expertise that few individuals can marshal. By excluding these organizations from access to voter registration lists, the State law undermines Section 8(i)’s efficacy. Accordingly, [Maryland election law] is an obstacle to the accomplishment of the NVRA’s purposes. It follows that the State law is preempted in so far as it allows only Maryland registered voters to access voter registration lists.
The dispute over the voter registration list arose from an April 11, 2017, notice letter sent to Maryland election officials, in which Judicial Watch explained Montgomery County had an impossibly high registration rate. The letter threatened a lawsuit if the problems with Montgomery County’s voter rolls were not fixed. The letter also requested access to Montgomery County voter registration lists in order to evaluate the efficacy of any “programs and activities conducted for the purpose of ensuring the accuracy and currency of Maryland’s official eligible voter lists during the past 2 years.”
Democrat Maryland officials, in response, attacked and smeared Judicial Watch by suggesting it was an agent of Russia.
“Now that the court has cleared the way for Judicial Watch to obtain the Montgomery voter data, our efforts to force the State of Maryland to comply with the NVRA and clean up its voter rolls may proceed,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “After our successful efforts to bring Kentucky, California, Ohio and Indiana into compliance with the National Voter Registration Act, it’s time for Maryland politicians to stop the politics, see the light, get right with the law and clean up the State’s voter rolls. If they don’t, we’ll see them in court again.”
Judicial Watch is the national leader in enforcing the provisions of the NVRA, having also filed a successful NVRA lawsuit against Indiana, causing it to voluntarily clean up its voting rolls. Judicial Watch also settled successfully with Ohio.