Election Law Live
Convicted felons have been unable to vote in Virginia since the 1830s. Well, that was the law until this past week, when Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe issued a sweeping executive order that automatically restored voting rights to ex-felons — including those convicted of murder, armed robbery, rape, sexual assault, and other violent crimes — as soon as they have completed their sentences.
Virginia’s law made sense. If you won’t follow the law yourself, the reasoning goes, you can’t demand a role in making the law for everyone else. But while you couldn’t demand it, you could ask for it. Virginia law provided for restoration of voting rights on a case-by-case basis to those ex-felons who demonstrated that they could again be trusted with the franchise.
McAuliffe’s actions effectively rewrite the Virginia Constitution, which provides for restoration of voting rights on an individual basis.
But McAuliffe clearly wasn’t going to let some pesky document like the Commonwealth’s constitution get in the way of partisan politics. The move could add more than 200,000 voters to a state that is sure to be a key swing state in the 2016 election.
So which way will ex-felons swing Virginia? Take a guess. I’ll give you a hint: 7 in 10 felons are registered Democrats.
City also concealed election records and failed to provide information about possible noncitizen voters
(Alexandria, VA) – April 7. The Public Interest Legal Foundation has filed a lawsuit in federal court against Anna J. Leider, the general registrar of voters in the City of Alexandria, Virginia. The lawsuit alleges that the registrar has failed to properly maintain voter rolls and refused to permit the plaintiffs to inspect list maintenance records as required by federal law.
The plaintiffs in the case are the Virginia Voters Alliance, Inc., (VVA) an organization dedicated to election integrity, and David Norcross, a member of VVA and resident of Alexandria.
For years in Alexandra, the number of registrants who can vote has exceeded the number of citizens of voting age residing in the city. In response to these unusual circumstances, the plaintiffs utilized protections in the National Voter Registration Act that require Alexandria to allow physical inspection of election records related to voter registration and list maintenance programs. Instead of complying with federal law, the defendant said VVA would be allowed to inspect records only after VVA provided a “chart” and other data. Moreover, Alexandria has failed to utilize readily available data about registrants who have moved, died, or are ineligible to vote because they are not citizens.
“When more are registered to vote than eligible citizens living in Alexandria, it is an invitation to voter fraud,” said J. Christian Adams, President and General Counsel of the Public Interest Legal Foundation. “Corrupted rolls are an invitation to election corruption. Alexandria is not using all of the available tools to clean their voter rolls and prevent non-citizens from registering and voting. Concealing list maintenance records from the public isn’t good government, and it violates Federal election law.”
The lawsuit asks the federal court to order Alexandria to open the requested list maintenance records to the plaintiffs. Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act (commonly called “Motor Voter”) gives Americans the right to review list maintenance records. “When it comes to elections, transparency is the best policy. It shouldn’t require a lawsuit to make that happen,” said Adams. The lawsuit also asks the court to order a remedial list maintenance plan in Alexandria.
Download this press release here.
On Tuesday, we filed a friend of the court brief in support of Kansas’s efforts to keep voter rolls clean of ineligible voters, including non-citizen voters.
The Lawrence Journal-World reports,
On Tuesday, though, the Public Interest Legal Foundation submitted a friend of the court brief arguing that without a proof-of-citizenship law, non-citizens can easily register to vote and cast ballots in U.S. elections.
Attached to that brief were photocopies of a dozen voter registration cards, all from Texas, which does not have a proof of citizenship law but merely asks people to check a box, yes or no, to indicate whether they are a U.S. citizen.
All of the cards are from people who either checked “no,” or checked both boxes, or left both boxes blank. And yet, all of the applicants were eventually registered and assigned a voter identification number.
“Kansas is taking the lead nationwide to prevent this criminal activity by ensuring that only American citizens vote in Kansas elections,” the organization stated in its brief.
Read more about our efforts in Kansas here.
The Public Interest Legal Foundation provided a Kansas federal court detailed information about non-citizens registering and voting in American elections. The non-profit election integrity organization filed a brief with the court to help defend Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s implementation of Kansas citizenship verification law.
The plaintiffs challenge Kansas’ proof-of-citizenship requirement. Secretary Kobach has vigorously defended Kansas law and provided the court with information regarding noncitizen registration and voting in Kansas.
The Foundation’s “friend of the court” brief goes further, providing numerous examples of noncitizen registration and voting across the county in order to demonstrate that noncitizens are registering and voting despite the Federal voter registration Form’s citizenship checkbox. PILF informs the Court that “Kansas is taking the lead nationwide to prevent this criminal activity by ensuring that only American citizens vote in Kansas elections.”
City failed to provide information about possible noncitizen voters
(Alexandria, VA) – April 5. The Public Interest Legal Foundation has filed a lawsuit in federal court against the Philadelphia City Commissioners because the defendants failed to respond to an inquiry about voter roll maintenance in Philadelphia.
For years in Philadelphia, the numbers of registered voters has nearly exceeded the number of citizen residents eligible to vote, among the highest in Pennsylvania. In response to these unusual circumstances, the plaintiff utilized protections in the National Voter Registration Act that require Philadelphia to allow physical inspection of election records related to voter registration and list maintenance programs. The plaintiff requested information from Philadelphia about tools used to ensure that non-citizens are not registering to vote, as well as other records.
Philadelphia failed even to respond to the request, and thus the lawsuit followed.
The plaintiff in the case is the American Civil Rights Union. The plaintiff originally sent the defendant a notice letter in January 2016 describing potential violations of federal election law, asking to review election records, and seeking to discuss a cure. Philadelphia never replied.
“Corrupted voter rolls provide the perfect environment for voter fraud. Failure to clean the rolls aggravates longstanding problems of voter fraud in Philadelphia,” said J. Christian Adams, President and General Counsel of the Public Interest Legal Foundation. “Philadelphia may not be using all the available tools to prevent non-citizens from registering and voting. Concealing list maintenance records from the public isn’t good government, and it violates Federal election law.”
The lawsuit asks the federal court to order Philadelphia to open the requested list maintenance records to the plaintiff. Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act (commonly called “Motor Voter”) gives Americans the right to review list maintenance records. “Philadelphia should practice transparency when it comes to elections. It shouldn’t require a lawsuit to make that happen,” said Adams. Linda A. Kerns of the Law Office of Linda A. Kerns serves as local counsel.
The Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF) is a 501(c)(3) public interest law firm dedicated to election integrity. PILF exists to assist states and others to aid the cause of election integrity and fight against lawlessness in American elections. Drawing on numerous experts in the field, PILF seeks to protect the right to vote and preserve the Constitutional framework of American elections. Media inquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org.