Maine SOS Matt Dunlap Sued for Failing to Disclose Voter Data
Posted on February 19th, 2020
(AUGUSTA, ME.) – February 19, 2020: The Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF) filed a lawsuit today against Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap for failing to disclose voter registration records under federal law (Public Interest Legal Foundation v. Matthew Dunlap).
“Secretary Dunlap purports to be a champion of transparency, until it comes to his own office,” PILF President and General Counsel J. Christian Adams said. “Maine law conflicts with federal statute. A person or organization’s lack of partisan interests should not disqualify them from reviewing list maintenance records. Maine’s elections records must be made available to the public.”
The complaint filed today, February 19, explains the Foundation initially requested copies of Maine’s statewide voter file and voting histories on October 17, 2019 pursuant to Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993. Secretary Dunlap’s office notified PILF the same day that the request was denied, given that the Foundation did not intend to leverage the data for electioneering purposes. On October 29, the Foundation provided notice to Secretary Dunlap that litigation would commence after his office did not release the data pursuant to the federal statutes governing the matter.
The Foundation seeks relief under Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, which requires officials to make voter list maintenance documents like the voter roll itself available for inspection to the general public. The law also offers a private right to file a lawsuit if denied.
Other federal courts which have confronted the issue have sided in favor of disclosure of public records.
Maine is now one of the last states to disclose election records in the face of federal inspection rights. Delaware and Massachusetts recently opened access to their respective registration records pursuant to PILF’s federal inspection requests. Litigation is ongoing in Maryland for the same.
Augusta maintains a contradictory record with respect to disclosure laws in recent years.
-Secretary Dunlap notoriously sued the U.S. Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity (for which he was a commissioner) over claims he was excluded from business communications and was therefore due those records. He later admitted he was “cajole[d]” into standing as a plaintiff for a third-party organization wishing to bring the suit.
-Prior to suing his fellow commissioners, Secretary Dunlap denied the presidential advisory commission’s request for a copy of Maine’s voter registration roll.
-PILF previously represented a nonprofit organization that spent more than five years fighting to protect the names of its private donors from the State of Maine. The foes of PILF’s client complained that PILF’s client violated Maine’s campaign finance laws. Maine decided to investigate the organization, seeking sensitive information including donor identities. There, Maine fought to enforce its disclosure laws over the client’s concerns about donor harassment.
The Foundation sued the City of Detroit for failing to maintain its voter list from dead and duplicate registrants in December 2019. The lawsuit is intended to help ensure the best voter roll data quality ahead of the 2020 Presidential Election.
The new case was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Maine. The case number is 1:20-cv-00061. The attorneys for the Public Interest Legal Foundation are Noel H. Johnson and Kaylan L. Phillips. Portland-based Stephen C. Whiting serves as local counsel.
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, PILF seeks to protect the right to vote and preserve the Constitutional framework of American elections. ###