7 Reasons for Summary Judgment in Harris County Noncitizen Voter Data Case

(HOUSTON, TX.) – November 21, 2018: The Public Interest Legal Foundation’s (PILF) filed a motion for summary judgment, citing a variety of undisputed facts regarding Harris County’s possession and refusal to disclose noncitizen voter records as required by federal law.

“The facts in this case are clear-cut and lead us to seek summary judgment to hopefully end the matter,” PILF Communications Director Logan Churchwell said. “Harris County officials are wasting taxpayer resources by trying to flaunt federal law by keeping the public in the dark about how voter rolls are maintained.”

The brief outlines seven core facts underscoring the necessity for a summary judgment on the case.

  1. Harris County admitted (in this case and in years prior) that it has records related to noncitizen voter registration.
  2. The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (“Motor Voter”) provides a freedom of information component that allows the public to physically inspect records held by officials regarding voter roll maintenance procedures and efforts. This mandatory public inspection right is designed to preserve the right to vote and ensure that election officials are complying with the law.
  3. In December 2017, the PILF cited Motor Voter inspection rights to review Harris County’s records detailing how noncitizen registrations were identified and removed from the voter roll.
  4. Harris County rejected PILF’s requests and even sought the help of the Texas Attorney General to block disclosures under state law.
  5. Congress clearly stated that “all” records regarding list maintenance efforts are meant to be publicly accessible within a prescribed period of time.
  6. Previous federal courts have ruled that “all records” means “all records.”
  7. Harris County has staked its position against the text of federal law, Congressional intent, and every prior federal court case on the issue, including the most recent U.S. Supreme Court case related to Motor Voter.

 The brief further states:

The Foundation’s right to records is not a close call … To adopt [Harris County’s] interpretation of the Public Disclosure Provision would allow election officials to conceal records related to their decision to wipe the names of eligible voters from the rolls and declare them to be ineligible, unless the decision to cancel the registration related to death or residency. All of the other touchstones of eligibility would be hidden from disclosure under [Harris County’s] version of the NVRA.

The Foundation is currently engaged in federal and state lawsuits to seek the release of records belonging to former registrants who were officially discovered or self-reported their ineligible noncitizen statuses to the Harris County Voter Registrar. The PILF previously responded to claims suggesting that it had no right to data related to noncitizen voter registrants and that the federal case should be stayed pending a state court judgment in Austin, among other matters. The Foundation also further briefed the Court in support of its motion for preliminary injunction to gain access to records.  

Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 allows individuals to request inspection or seek copies of “records concerning the implementation of programs and activities conducted for the purpose of ensuring accuracy and currency of official lists of eligible voters,” the PILF noted in its original complaint.

A copy of the case fact sheet can be found, here.

The case is in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division. The case number is 4:18-cv-00981.

Attorneys for the Public Interest Legal Foundation are J. Christian Adams, Noel H. Johnson, and Joseph Vanderhulst. Brenham-based Andy Taylor of Andy Taylor & Associates, P.C. serves as local counsel.

The Public Interest Legal Foundation is the nation’s most active public interest law firm dedicated to enforcing the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) and ensuring the integrity of American elections – bringing more than a dozen cases to enforce voter list maintenance obligations and inspection rights under federal law in federal courts across the nation in addition to serving as amicus in more than a dozen voting law cases. The Foundation also works with election officials and policymakers to improve the integrity of elections.

Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF) is a 501(c)(3) public interest law firm dedicated to election integrity. The Foundation 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, the Foundation seeks to protect the right to vote and preserve the Constitutional framework of American elections.

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