Indiana Lawsuit to Force Clean Up of Voting Rolls Can Proceed
DECEMBER 11, 2012
Federal Judge: Indiana Lawsuit to Force Clean Up of Voting Rolls Can Proceed
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that on December 10, 2011, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division, has denied a motion by the State of Indiana to dismiss a Judicial Watch/True the Vote lawsuit (Judicial Watch, et al. v. King, et al. (No. 1:12-cv-00800)) against Indiana election officials alleging violations of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA). Judicial Watch and its co-plaintiff and client, True the Vote, allege that the State of Indiana failed to maintain clean voter registration lists as required by the NVRA.
The State of Indiana moved to dismiss the lawsuit alleging that True the Vote, a grassroots election integrity watchdog, and Judicial Watch did not have standing within the state to bring the lawsuit and, therefore, could not sue Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson and Indiana Election Division Directors J. Bradley Kind and Trent Deckard in their official capacity. But U.S. District Court Judge William T. Lawson ruled that the lawsuit can proceed in its entirety.
The case began on February 6, 2012, when Judicial Watch notified Indiana election officials by letter that the state is in violation of the NVRA, having failed to clean its voting records to the extent that “the number of persons registered to vote exceeded the total voting population in twelve Indian counties.” The Judicial Watch letter also requested that the State of Indiana make available for public inspection all records concerning “the implementation of programs and activities conducted for the purpose of ensuring the accuracy and currency” of official lists of eligible voters, per Section 8 of the NVRA.
The State of Indiana responded by summarily dismissing these concerns about the rolls and by flatly refusing to produce documents about this issue. On June 11, 2012, Judicial Watch filed suit.
In its denial of the motion to dismiss, the District Court first ruled that the plaintiffs had sufficiently fulfilled NVRA notification requirements, stating, “[T]he Court finds that the Letter satisfied the pre-suit notice requirement, inasmuch as the Letter, when read as a whole, makes it clear that Judicial Watch is asserting a violation of the NVRA and plans to initiate litigation if its concerns are not addressed in a timely fashion.”
In denying the defendants’ allegation that Judicial Watch and True the Vote did not have standing to sue, the Court ruled that Judicial Watch “has satisfied this burden by alleging that its members who are registered to vote in Indiana are injured by Indiana’s failure to comply with the NVRA list maintenance requirements.” True the Vote, the court ruled “has suffered injuries because of the Defendants alleged failure to comply with the NVRA and therefore has standing to bring its List Maintenance Claim.”
“This is a major victory for the people of Indiana and all who value the integrity of the ballot box nationwide. Indiana’s election officials who shirked their responsibility to maintain clean voter registration lists have been put on notice that their lackadaisical attitude is no longer acceptable,” stated Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “This victory should put other states on notice that they need to take reasonable and responsible steps to remove dead and ineligible voters from the rolls. The Obama Justice Department has been AWOL on this issue so we will stand in the gap for election integrity.”
True the Vote President Catherine Engelbrecht said, “This is excellent news for Americans concerned with the integrity of our elections,” “Election officials, from local offices to secretaries of state, cannot wash their hands of the federal requirement to maintain accurate voter rolls for any reason. This decision should serve as clear evidence that citizens can and will hold our election system accountable.
“Yesterday’s decision set a standard for private citizens wanting to make a difference. Bloated voter rolls are clear evidence that election officials are not doing the jobs they were hired to do. With this early victory, True the Vote and Judicial Watch will continue to expose and correct any instance of failure to maintain our voter rolls. Hopefully the parties can reach a settlement that fixes the problem and saves Indiana taxpayers from the needless cost of litigation.”
Independent research published by the non-partisan Pew Charitable Trust in February 2012 indicated that 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.
As part of its 2012 Election Integrity Project Judicial Watch conducted an investigation demonstrating that voter rolls in the following states contained the names of individuals ineligible to vote: Mississippi, Iowa, Indiana, Missouri, Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Florida, Alabama, and California. Judicial Watch put these states on notice that they must clean up their voter registration lists or face Judicial Watch lawsuits. Judicial Watch and True the Vote subsequently filed lawsuits against election officials in Indiana and Ohio, and prompted the state of Florida to purge its registration lists of ineligible voters.
The Obama Justice Department pressured states to register greater numbers of voters on public assistance in 2012, while ignoring a stipulation in the NVRA requiring states to clean up voter registration lists. The Justice Department also opposed voter ID laws and other election integrity measures.