Civil Rights Groups Seek to Avoid Purge of Pennsylvania Voter Rolls
PHILADELPHIA — Civil rights groups asked a federal court Monday to let them defend against a lawsuit over voter rolls in the Philadelphia suburbs.
The lawsuit was brought two weeks ago by Judicial Watch, a conservative activist group known for its public-records requests and litigation. The group claims Bucks, Chester and Delaware counties have failed to properly remove voters who have become ineligible. It seeks the removal of an unspecified number of voters according to unspecified criteria.
“Lawsuits like these are designed to force counties to pull eligible voters off the rolls, and that’s just not the way democracy is supposed to work,” said Suzanne Almeida, interim executive director for Common Cause Pennsylvania.
The group, along with the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, filed a motion Monday to intervene in Judicial Watch v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. They are represented by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the state and national ACLU, and New York-based Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP.
Judicial Watch has gone after voter rolls across the country, accusing elections officials of violating the National Voter Registration Act by not removing voters who have become ineligible, such as those who have moved.
“This isn’t our first rodeo,” Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton said last week. “And Pennsylvania has a big issue. This will be a statewide issue in theory if we’re able to get the results we want. Every county will be subject to having to follow the rules.”
In the Pennsylvania suit, the group sued the three counties and the state, raising the specter of fraud without providing any evidence. (In-person voter fraud is rare.)
Judicial Watch said the three Pennsylvania counties removed only 17 voters in 2017 and 2018, citing a national election administration survey. In fact, officials said, they removed tens of thousands of inactive voters.
“We 100% dispute” the claims, Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar told state lawmakers last week.
Almeida said the voting rights groups are hoping to have the suit dismissed. If the court does end up ordering counties to remove voters, she said, the groups want to play a role in making sure it’s done as fairly as possible.
Voter roll maintenance is a normal part of election administration, and in Pennsylvania, voters who do not vote in multiple elections are mailed a postcard asking whether they want to stay active. Only after about eight years of not voting and no response are voters removed from the rolls.
Large-scale purges of voter rolls can remove eligible voters who planned to vote in future elections, disenfranchising them, and can disproportionately affect low-income voters and people of color, experience and studies have shown.
©2020 The Philadelphia Inquirer
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
In The News
Voting by mail, a centerpiece of elections in Florida for almost 20 years, is being hailed in 2020 as a life-saving necessity amid the coronavirus pandemic and attacked by President Donald Trump and his supporters as “fraud.” Elections supervisors can begin sending out mail-in ballots on... Read More
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s apparent proposal that future coronavirus aid for schools be tied to students, rather than school districts, has drawn rebukes from key Democrats. “He wants to increase funding in CARES four for education, but he’s looking at potentially redirecting that to make... Read More
The United States has reached another grim milestone in the coronavirus pandemic, with the number of confirmed infections surging past 3 million on Wednesday. The official tally, compiled by Johns Hopkins University, is almost twice as high as the second hardest-hit country, Brazil, and represents nearly... Read More
A member of the storied Kennedy political family emerged as the presumptive Democratic nominee in a South Jersey congressional district late Tuesday, defying expectations that it would take days before results were clear in the state’s primary election while officials count hundreds of thousands of mail... Read More
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Tuesday urged the nation’s public schools to reopen “quickly and beautifully” and jabbed at districts such as Los Angeles’ that remain uncertain, again injecting politics into the pandemic response. As the nation’s death toll from COVID-19 surged past 130,000 this... Read More
PHILADELPHIA — The lawyers are busy. And the future of voting is at stake. With less than four months until November’s election, a flurry of lawsuits in state and federal courts is seeking to change election rules in Pennsylvania and dozens of other states around the... Read More