Court Rules Judicial Watch Lawsuit Can Proceed against Colorado Officials to Force Cleanup of State’s Voter Rolls
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that a federal court ruled its lawsuit can proceed against Colorado officials to force a cleanup of the state’s voter rolls.
Judicial Watch filed the lawsuit October 5, 2020, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado on behalf of itself and three residents of Colorado against Jena Griswold, Colorado Secretary of State, and the State of Colorado for failing to clean the state’s voter rolls as required by the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA).
The court’s recent ruling to allow Judicial Watch’s claims to proceed came after Colorado’s motion to dismiss the case, which the court denied in all key respects.
The court ruled that the individual plaintiffs have standing to sue based on the fact that “noncompliance with the NVRA undermines the individual plaintiffs’ confidence in the integrity of the electoral process and discourages their participation [in elections].”
In his ruling, Chief District Judge Philip A. Brimmer also ruled that Judicial Watch’s allegations about Colorado’s voting lists were enough to allow the lawsuit to proceed:
[Judicial Watch’s] claims that the Secretary is not complying with the NVRA are based on public records and statistical analysis. Plaintiffs insist that they have shown not only high registration rates, which they claim courts have found indicative of an NVRA violation, but also that the Secretary sends too few Confirmation Notices, removes too few registrants, and has too high a number of inactive voters on the rolls. . . . [T]he Court finds that plaintiffs have met their burden and have plausibly alleged that Colorado’s list maintenance program does not comply with the NVRA.
In its lawsuit against Colorado Judicial Watch argues:
- A 2019 study showed that 40 of Colorado’s 64 counties had voter registration rates exceeding 100% of the eligible citizen voting-age population. The share of Colorado counties with registration rates exceeding 100% was the highest in the nation.
- Data Colorado itself provided to the federal Election Assistance Commission (EAC) showed that Colorado was lagging in the processing and removal of certain classes of ineligible registrations belonging to those who had moved out of state.
- In the last two years, 60 of Colorado’s 64 counties had a higher percentage of inactive registrations than the national median.
- In eight Colorado counties, more than one in six registrations belonged to an inactive voter.
Judicial Watch notes that registration rates over 100%, poor processing of out-of-date registrations, and high levels of inactive registrations “indicate an ongoing, systemic problem with Colorado’s voter list maintenance efforts.” Colorado’s “failure to comply with their … voter list maintenance obligations” injures 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.”
Judicial Watch has asked the court to declare that Colorado and its Secretary of State are violating the NVRA and to order them to “develop and implement a general program that makes a reasonable effort to remove the registrations of ineligible registrants from the voter rolls in Colorado …”
“Dirty voting rolls can mean dirty elections. And this court victory highlights how Colorado citizens and voters have a right to expect that the state’s voting rolls are reasonably kept up to date, as federal law requires,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.
Judicial Watch is a national leader for cleaner elections.
In 2018, the Supreme Court upheld a voter-roll cleanup program that resulted from a Judicial Watch settlement of a federal lawsuit with Ohio. California settled a federal lawsuit with Judicial Watch and in 2019 began the process of removing up to 1.6 million inactive names from Los Angeles County’s voter rolls.
Kentucky also began a cleanup of hundreds of thousands of old registrations after it entered into a consent decree to end another Judicial Watch lawsuit. In September of last year, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky agreed to extend the consent decree through 2025 after finding that that Kentucky’s former Democrat Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grime breached its terms by delaying sending out voter notices, which allowed the names of people who have died or moved away to remain on the Commonwealth’s voter rolls.
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.
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%. These counties combined had about 1.8 million registrations over the 100%-registered mark.
Judicial Watch’s 2019 study found 378 counties nationwide that had more voter registrations than citizens old enough to vote, i.e., counties where registration rates exceed 100%. These 378 counties combined had about 2.5 million registrations over the 100%-registered mark.
Judicial Watch Attorney Robert Popper is the director of Judicial Watch’s clean elections initiative. Judicial Watch is assisted by John Zakhem of Jackson Kelly PLLC in Denver, Colorado.