Judicial Watch Settles North Carolina Voter Roll Lawsuit after State Removes over 430,000 Inactive Names from Rolls
‘[T]he total number of inactive registrations reported by North Carolina dropped from about 1.2 million in 2019, to about 765,000 in 2021 (a 36% drop).’
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that it is settling its lawsuit against North Carolina and two of its counties after they removed over 430,000 ineligible names from the voter rolls.
Judicial Watch filed its lawsuit against the State of North Carolina, Mecklenburg County and Guilford County in April 2020 (Judicial Watch v. North Carolina and North Carolina State Board of Elections, et al. (No. 3:20-cv- 211)).
In June 2019, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) released data showing that voter registration rates in a significant proportion of North Carolina’s 100 counties were close to, at or above 100% of their age-eligible citizenry – statistics considered by the courts to be a strong indication that a jurisdiction is not taking the steps required by law to remove ineligible registrants. Judicial Watch’s analysis also showed that at the time of the EAC report the entire State of North Carolina had a registration rate close to 100% of its age-eligible citizenry.
On December 11, 2019, Judicial Watch sent notice-of-violation letters to the state and its two counties, warning them that lawsuits would be filed if timely action were not taken to clean up the voter rolls.
In the April 2020 complaint, Judicial Watch argued that North Carolina, Mecklenburg County, and Guilford County failed to make reasonable efforts to remove ineligible voters from their registration rolls as required by the federal National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA). The lawsuit also claimed that these jurisdictions violated the NVRA by failing to make available to Judicial Watch public records concerning efforts to comply with the law.
On August 16, 2021, the EAC released its latest survey data from the states.
In the settlement, Judicial Watch told the court:
[T]he total number of inactive registrations reported by North Carolina dropped from about 1.2 million in 2019, to about 765,000 in 2021 (a 36% drop). The statewide percentage of inactive registrations dropped from 17% in 2019, which the complaint alleged to be a national outlier, to 10% in 2021, which is close to the median state inactive rate. The number of registrations removed for failure to respond to an address confirmation notice and vote in two consecutive elections has increased, from about 220,000 for the period reported in 2019, to about 590,000 for the period reported in 2021 (a 168% increase).
With respect to the two North Carolina counties, Judicial told the court:
Data for Mecklenburg County and Guilford County also showed improvement. From 2019 to 2021, the percentage of inactive registrations reported in Mecklenburg County dropped from 15.5% to 13%, and in Guilford County from 19% to 11%. The number of registrations removed for failure to respond to an address confirmation notice and vote in two elections increased during that same period, from roughly 21,000 to 51,000 in Mecklenburg County, and from 7,000 to 33,000 in Guilford County (a 142% and 372% increase, respectively). In light of Defendants’ substantial increases in removals of ineligible voters since this suit commenced, Plaintiff has determined in good faith that this legal action should not be pursued.
“This is a win for the voters of North Carolina – because clean voter rolls help pave the way to cleaner elections,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “After we filed our federal lawsuit, North Carolina removed hundreds of thousands ineligible voters (people who have died or moved away). North Carolina follows Judicial Watch voter roll clean-up successes in California, Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana. And we are right now prepping lawsuits against other states to force them to clean up their rolls.”
In November 2021, Judicial Watch sent letters to election officials in 14 counties and five states—Arkansas, California, Illinois, New York, and Oregon—notifying them of evident violations of the NVRA. The letters detail how these states’ own reported data show that their counties removed an “absurdly low” or “impossible” number of inactive voter registrations under key provisions of the NVRA. The letters threaten federal lawsuits unless the violations are corrected in a timely fashion.
A 2020 letter from Judicial Watch to Allegheny County, Pennsylvania led to the removal of 69,000 outdated registrations. In 2018, the Supreme Court upheld a voter-roll cleanup program that resulted from a Judicial Watch settlement of a federal lawsuit with Ohio. Kentucky began cleaning up hundreds of thousands of old registrations in 2019 after it too entered into a consent decree in 2018 to end another Judicial Watch lawsuit. California also settled a NVRA lawsuit with Judicial Watch that requires the removal of as many as 1.6 million inactive names from Los Angeles County’s voter rolls.
In October 2020, Judicial Watch released a study that found 353 counties nationwide that had more voter registrations than citizens old enough to vote, i.e., counties where registration rates exceed 100%. Based on this research, in 2020, a federal court ordered the State of Maryland to produce complete voter registration records for Montgomery County that include the registered voters’ dates of birth.
In September 2020, Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Illinois Conservative Union (ICU) and three of its officers, after Illinois state officials refused to allow them to obtain a copy of the state’s voter registration database. In June 2021, a federal court ruled the lawsuit could proceed.