April 28, 2020
(Washington, DC) Judicial Watch announced today that it filed a lawsuit against Pennsylvania and three of its counties for failing to make reasonable efforts to remove ineligible voters from their rolls as required by the federal National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA). According to Judicial Watch’s analysis of voter registration data, these counties removed almost no names under NVRA procedures for identifying and updating the registrations of those who have moved (Judicial Watch v. Pennsylvania, et al (No. 1:02-at-06000)). The lawsuit also points out that the Commonwealth has over 800,000 “inactive” registrations on its voter rolls. One Pennsylvania county almost immediately removed 69,000 inactive names earlier this year in response to a Judicial Watch letter.
In its complaint, Judicial Watch points out that the State’s abnormally low number of removals under NVRA procedures designed to identify voters who have changed residence indicates that it is not removing inactive registrations as the law requires. According to data the State certified to the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), in the most recent two-year reporting period:
- Bucks County, with about 457,000 registrations, removed a total of eight names under the relevant NVRA procedures;
- Chester County, with about 357,000 registrations, removed five names under those procedures; and
- Delaware County, with about 403,000 registrations, removed four names under those procedures.
Judicial Watch also argues that an abnormally high percentage of registrations compared to the population over 18 years of age is an indicator “that the jurisdiction is not taking steps required by law to cancel the registrations of ineligible registrants.” It alleges that “[t]he registration rates for Bucks, Chester, and Delaware Counties are high in comparison to other counties in Pennsylvania, and high in comparison to other counties throughout the U.S.” As of April 2020, Pennsylvania’s own data shows it has over 800,000 inactive registrations.
Other Pennsylvania counties have acted to avoid being sued by Judicial Watch. On January 14, 2020, CBS Pittsburgh reported that because of the threat of a lawsuit from Judicial Watch, Allegheny County removed 69,000 inactive voters. David Voye, Elections Manager for the county told CBS, “I would concede that we are behind on culling our rolls,” and that this had “been put on the backburner.”
“Dirty voting rolls can mean dirty elections – that’s one reason why we’re going to court to force Pennsylvania to follow federal law to clean up its voting rolls,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Pennsylvania has to take the simple steps necessary to clean from its rolls the names of voters, which number over 800,000, who probably have moved away or died.”
Judicial Watch is the national leader in enforcing the NVRA.
Recently, a federal court ordered the State of Maryland to produce complete voter registration records for Montgomery County that include the registered voters’ dates of birth. The judge found that Judicial Watch made “reasonable justifications for requiring birth date information, including using birth dates to find duplicate registrations and searching for voters who remain on the rolls despite ‘improbable’ age.”
Judicial Watch recently filed a lawsuit against North Carolina to force the state to clean its voter rolls that included over one million inactive voters. In December 2019, Judicial Watch provided notice to 19 large counties in five states that it intended to sue unless they took steps to comply with the NVRA by removing ineligible registrations from their rolls. In addition to North Carolina and Pennsylvania, Judicial Watch sent letters to counties inCalifornia, Virginia, and Colorado.
In 2018, the Supreme Court upheld a voter-roll cleanup program that resulted from a Judicial Watch settlement of a federal lawsuit with Ohio. California settled an NVRA lawsuit with Judicial Watch and last year began the process of removing up to 1.6 million inactive names from Los Angeles County’s voter rolls. Kentucky also began a cleanup of hundreds of thousands of old registrations last year after it entered into a consent decree to end another Judicial Watch lawsuit.
Despite successful litigation by Judicial Watch to bring counties and states into compliance with the NVRA, voter registration lists across the country remain significantly out of date. Judicial Watch’s 2019 study found 378 counties nationwide that had more voter registrations than citizens old enough to vote, i.e., counties where registration rates exceed 100%. These 378 counties combined had about 2.5 million registrations over the 100%-registered mark. This is a drop of about one million from Judicial Watch’s previous analysis of voter registration data in 2017.
Judicial Watch Attorney Robert Popper is the director of Judicial Watch’s Election Integrity initiative. Judicial Watch is being assisted by H. Christopher Coates of the Law Office of H. Christopher Coates, and by Jonathan S. Goldstein of Goldstein Law Partners, LLC in Hatfield, Pennsylvania.