Lawsuit: Allegheny County, PA Isn’t Properly Cleaning Voter Rolls

Published On: February 25th, 2020

County Procedures Leave Dead, Duplicate, Corrupted Registrations on Roll

(PITTSBURGH, PA.) – February 26, 2020: The Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF) filed a lawsuit against Allegheny County, Pennsylvania for failing to reasonably maintain voter registration records under federal and state law (Public Interest Legal Foundation v. Allegheny Board of Elections).

“List maintenance in Allegheny County has broken down,” PILF President and General Counsel J. Christian Adams said. “We found people registered multiple times, registrants who were dead for decades, and problems throughout the rolls. Elections cannot have the same people registered two, three, or even seven times at once. We hope bringing this action will result in a quick solution before elections in November.”

Allegheny County Quick Facts

— # of Registrations flagged for duplicate, 3X, 4X, 7X concerns: 7,493

— # of Dead Registrants: 1,583

— # of Registrants Aged 100+: 1,523 (49 in the 1800s)

— # of Registrations Missing Actual Dates of Birth: 1,178

— # of Registrations Missing Actual Dates of Registration: 193

— # of Registrations with Corrupted or Out-of-State Addresses: 35

–Voter Registration Rate per 2018 Citizen Voting-Age Population: 95%

The initial complaint explains the Foundation studied the County’s voter list maintenance efforts throughout 2019 to date by a variety of means. At several points in the past year, PILF acquired the statewide qualified voter file from the Pennsylvania Secretary of State for the purpose of comparing registration lists against federal death records and other official sources.

The Foundation ultimately sampled all active registrants finding more than 1,580 listed as dead.

The Foundation also studied and catalogued examples of single registrants who managed to become registered to vote two and even up to seven times with matching or substantially similar names and other biographical information within the same addresses. PILF flagged a grand total of 7,493 registration files for duplicate, triplicate, quadruplicate, and even septuplicate concerns. Among them, examples of married/maiden name conflicts, simple typographical errors, and conflicting gender designations were trending concerns.

One subject was recorded as registering to vote up to seven times in a single day while out of state.

The Foundation also flagged impossibly old dates of birth held within the voter file. More than 1,520 were flagged age 100 years or older. One registrant is stated as being born in “June 1800,” the same year Thomas Jefferson won eight of Pennsylvania’s 15 Electoral College votes against President John Adams.

The Foundation flagged an emerging trend of dozens of subjects managing to register in Allegheny County despite only providing residential addresses outside of Pennsylvania

The County also relies on placeholder information within registrant files. In nearly 1,200 instances, dates of birth were not captured. In another roughly 200 cases, the County did not know when a registration file was established.

The Foundation seeks relief under Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, which requires officials to make “reasonable efforts” to maintain voter lists and offers a private right to file a lawsuit if standards are not met.

In July 2018, PILF published a study regarding foreign nationals’ requests to cancel their Allegheny County voter registration files due to immigration and naturalization concerns.

A similar voter roll list maintenance lawsuit was brought by PILF against the City of Detroit in December 2019. Separate litigation between the Foundation and the Pennsylvania Department of State regarding the disclosure of registration cancellation records involving foreign nationals is pending in the Middle District. The Court rejected Pennsylvania’s motion to dismiss the suit in December 2019.

The new case was filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. The case number is 2:20-cv-00279. The attorney for the Public Interest Legal Foundation is J. Christian Adams. Linda A. Kerns L.L.C. 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. ###

Public Interest Legal Foundation