PILF Sues Harris County, TX for Data on Noncitizen Voters

Foundation Alleges Harris County Violated Motor Voter Law

(HOUSTON, TX.) – March 29, 2018: The Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF) filed a lawsuit today against the Office of the Harris County Voter Registrar for failing to disclose noncitizen registered voter records as required under federal law (PILF v. Harris Bennett 4:18-cv-00981).

Harris County refused to allow the foundation to inspect or be furnished documents related to noncitizen registered voters either reporting their own unlawful registration or discovered thanks to officials efforts. The County’s actions constitute an apparent violation of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993.

“Harris County has previously admitted a problem with noncitizen registration and voting,” PILF President and General Counsel J. Christian Adams said. “Election officials should be transparent, and in fact are required by federal law to be transparent. Our requests to inspect records will help educate lawmakers and the public alike on how noncitizens are gaining entry into the voting system; how long they remain; how they vote; and what we can do to fix the issue. The question is not if—but how many noncitizens are participating? Harris County cannot expect to get away with avoiding its federal transparency responsibilities.

On multiple occasions, noncitizen voter registration and voting has been documented in Harris County.

  • In April 2015, the PILF submitted an amicus curiae brief on behalf of a client before the U.S. Supreme Court, detailing a sample of 13 cases where individuals admitted to noncitizenship or refused to declare a status at all when apply for voting, yet were registered anyway. The brief further noted testimony from the Harris County voter registrar’s office in 2006 that noncitizen voting “has and will continue to occur.”
  • In May 2015, the Harris County voter registration officials testified before the Texas House Elections Committee that “thousands” of noncitizens were discovered in the voter registration system annually and were regularly handed over to the District Attorney for prosecution.

In a January letter submitted to Harris County, officials were given final notice that they faced “federal litigation should [they] continue to deny access to the requested records” related to noncitizen voters on the rolls.

Harris County declined the PILF’s original request to inspect records related to registrants who were later removed following official discovery or admitted non-citizenship on January 11.

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,” the PILF noted.

For a detailed look at the fact pattern leading to today’s lawsuit, click here.

The Public Interest Legal Foundation has built a record of case studies uncovering noncitizen voter registration and voting in a growing number of states.

  • In October 2016, PILF found noncitizens registered to vote in Philadelphia. Half of those voted in at least one election.
  • In May 2017, PILF found 5,556 voters removed by the Commonwealth of Virginia as “non-citizens”. Roughly 33% voted. This research followed an initial October 2016 sampling that yielded 1,000 noncitizens.
  • In September 2017, PILF found 1,069 noncitizens within New Jersey’s voter registration system.
  • In October 2017, PILF testified before the Pennsylvania House State Government Committee on the matter of noncitizen voting in the state and encouraged an official review to identify more ineligible voters. Testimony was taken again by the PA Senate State Government Committee in December 2017.
  • In January 2018, PILF put Bexar County, Texas, on notice that it will file a federal lawsuit if officials continue to refuse inspection of voter records belonging to noncitizens discovered or self-reported.
  • In February 2018, PILF sued the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for failing to disclose noncitizen voter records under the NRVA.

A copy of the case fact sheet can be found, here.

The complaint and exhibits filed as of today may be accessed at the PILF website, here.

The case was filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division. The case number is 4:18-cv-00981.

Attorneys for the Public Interest Legal Foundation are J. Christian Adams, Noel H. Johnson, and Joseph Vanderhulst. Brenham-based Andy Taylor of Andy Taylor & Associates, P.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.

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