PILF Threatens Virginia with Lawsuit over Voter Roll Maintenance Procedures

(ALEXANDRIA, VA.) – December 13, 2018: The Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF) placed the Virginia Department of Elections on notice that litigation will commence unless it corrects voter roll maintenance procedures involving “non-citizen” removals under federal law.

The Foundation warns that Commonwealth election officials are wrongfully removing actual U.S.citizen registrants while detecting and clearing foreign nationals from the rolls. As part of this troubled process, the Commonwealth regularly publishes maintenance reports titled “Declared Non-Citizen” which display the names,residential addresses, and other pertinent information belonging to each former registrant. Not only are otherwise eligible citizen registrants harmed by the process, but any party, the Public Interest Legal Foundation included, who relies on such maintenance reports for public communication and policy reform discussions do so at great risk.

“Despite reasonable intentions,something is broken in Virginia’s system to identify and remove ineligible noncitizens from its voter roll,” PILF Communications and Research Director Logan Churchwell said. “Virginia election officials fought transparency efforts surrounding their list maintenance process in previous years — we are now beginning to see why.”

The notice outlines three areas of concern or action.

Virginia’s maintenance program results in the removal of some otherwise eligible U.S.citizens.

Virginia law requires that election officials collect driver and immigration data from state and federal sources to generate maintenance leads related to potential noncitizen registrants. Based on claims made in separate litigation, several current and former Virginia residents attest to being U.S. citizens, despite being named in reports or records furnished by the Commonwealth regarding noncitizen cancellations. 

Virginia’s maintenance program violates the National Voter Registration Act

Virginia’s procedure violates a core mandate of the NVRA, which was designed to “enhance the participation of eligible citizens as voters in elections for Federal office.” (emphasis added) Based on records collected in some jurisdictions, it also appears that communications designed to be sent to potential noncitizen registrants were transmitted in English only—even in areas where bilingual communications are federally required.

Additional document disclosures are required to identify procedural failures

The Foundation seeks a variety of records which Commonwealth and local officials relied upon to process registrants for removal as “declared non-citizens.” These include referral documents from driver’s license offices and records matched against the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements Program (SAVE) operated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Records indicating that the removal process was communicated in any other language than English are also needed.

The notice also explains:

PILF relied upon the Department’s list maintenance records to publish reports discussing Virginia’s compliance with state and federal voting rights laws and identifying potential voter fraud occurring in the Commonwealth. Before publishing these reports, PILF had no way of verifying the accuracy of the government-created list maintenance records provided by the Department and registrars of cities and counties across Virginia without contacting each of the voters named—conduct that likely would have been characterized as threatening and intimidating. PILF, like all members of the public, is entitled to rely on the presumption that the Department is actually complying with its obligation under the NVRA to conduct lawful voter-removal programs and to maintain records that accurately reflect the circumstances of each voter’s removal from the registry.

The Foundation earned access to the original reportedly problematic maintenance reports after multiple federal lawsuits were filed against local jurisdictions in early 2017.

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.” Ninety days must be given to the noticed jurisdiction to cure the matters before litigation can commence.

Read the notice letter here.

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, PILF seeks to protect the right to vote and preserve the Constitutional framework of American elections.

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