Federal Court Rules States Cannot Punish Voter Roll Researchers

Maine’s restrictions on the use of voter roll data were enacted to keep election watchdogs from being able to analyze and communicate voter roll findings

(Alexandria, VA) – March 29, 2023: The Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF) secured a landmark ruling for election integrity. The United States District Court ruled in PILF’s favor that the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA) prohibits fines and use restrictions on voter roll data.

The Court ruled that Maine’s restrictions on the use of voter roll data are real obstacles to achieving Congress’s intent for transparency under the NVRA.

“This is monumental victory for election integrity,” said PILF President J. Christian Adams. “The use restrictions would have made it extremely difficult to hold Maine and other election officials accountable. This ruling will make other states think twice before passing similar laws.”


In October 2019, PILF requested a copy of Maine’s statewide voter file and voting histories. The Secretary of State’s office notified PILF that the request was denied, citing state law that limited access to preferred entities like political parties. The Foundation filed a lawsuit in February 2020.

To moot PILF’s case, Maine amended its law to allow access to the voter file—with a catch. The change prohibited PILF and others from using the file to perform any research not pre-approved by the legislature. For example, the new law prohibited PILF from comparing Maine’s roll to New York’s to identify duplicate registrations across state lines. Anything other than “evaluating” Maine’s own compliance with voter list maintenance obligations would risk severe fines for unauthorized use.

During litigation, PILF also discovered the bill in question was drafted by Maine Secretary of State staffers, sympathetic legislators, and the top lobbyist for the state Democratic Party. Also involved in the drafting was the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), an organization that waged a legal campaign against the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity in 2017 to block access to states’ voter rolls for interstate research comparisons.

PILF amended its complaint to challenge the use restrictions and fines. This week’s decision counters a growing trend: state efforts to dictate how concerned citizens may research voter rolls while acting under their NVRA inspection rights.

Prior case filings and documents can be found here. A copy of the Court’s written ruling is here.

The attorneys for the Public Interest Legal Foundation in this case are Noel H. Johnson and Kaylan L. Phillips.

Public Interest Legal Foundation
 (PILF) is the nation’s only public interest law firm dedicated wholly 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. PILF has brought lawsuits and won victories in Texas, Mississippi, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and across the United States.


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Public Interest Legal Foundation