Lawsuit: Detroit Isn’t Properly Cleaning Voter Rolls

Published On: December 11th, 2019

City Won’t Clean Dead, Duplicate Registrations from Roll

(DETROIT, MI.) – December 11, 2019: The Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF) filed a lawsuit today against the City of Detroit for failing to reasonably maintain voter registration records under federal and Michigan law (Public Interest Legal Foundation v. Detroit).

“The City of Detroit is failing to perform some of the most basic functions owed to its citizenry,” PILF President and General Counsel J. Christian Adams said. “The city government’s nonchalant attitude toward addressing evidence of dead and duplicate registrations exposes yet another vulnerability in our voting systems as our nation works to improve election security before November 2020. Making a federal case out of this was necessary, and I hope we can achieve a resolution before the polls open.

Detroit Quick Facts

–Voter Registration Rate per 2016 Citizen Voting-Age Population: 106%

— # of Dead Registrants Aged 85+: 2,503

— # of Registrations flagged for duplicate, triplicate concerns: 4,788

— # of Registrations Missing Actual Dates of Registration: 16,465

The initial complaint filed on December 10 explains the Foundation has studied the City’s voter list maintenance efforts since 2017 by a variety of means. Earlier this year, PILF acquired the statewide qualified voter file from the Michigan Secretary of State for the purpose of comparing registration lists against federal death records. The Foundation ultimately sampled all active registrants whose respective ages were 85 years or older, finding more than 2,500 within the age range who were listed in the Social Security Death Index with corresponding death records and/or obituaries.

The Foundation also studied and catalogued examples of single registrants who managed to become registered to vote two and even three times with matching or substantially similar names and other biographical information within the same addresses. PILF flagged a grand total of 4,788 registration files for duplicate and triplicate concerns. Among them, examples of married/maiden name conflicts, simple typographical errors, and conflicting gender designations were trending concerns.

The Foundation also flagged impossibly old and disqualifying young date of birth information held within the voter file. One registrant is stated as being born in “1823,” well before Michigan was annexed into the Union. Another 16,400 registrants were flagged due to the fact that officials did not demonstrate when they actually became registered to vote.

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.

The new case was filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. The case number is 2:19-cv-13638. The attorney for the Public Interest Legal Foundation is Kaylan L. Phillips. Robert L. Avers of DickinsonWright PLLC 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