Judicial Watch Fights to Keep Elections Honest

For more than a decade, Judicial Watch has been fighting to keep elections free and fair. One of the key weapons in this battle is the National Voter Registration Act. The NVRA directs the states to make “a reasonable effort” to remove from voting rolls “the names of ineligible voters” who have been disqualified from voting due to death or change of residence. States—red and blue, Republican and Democrat—often dodge this responsibility, creating opportunities for election fraud and opening the door to illegal votes swinging close contests.

Judicial Watch holds the states accountable. Legal pressure from Judicial Watch has resulted in the removal of more than four million ineligible voters from voter rolls in New York, California, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Kentucky, Ohio, and elsewhere. As JW President Tom Fitton puts it, “cleaner voter rolls mean cleaner elections.”

But the work is far from complete.

Last year, we made inquiries to over a dozen states about their voter rolls. In recent months, we put the District of Columbia, Illinois, and California on notice that federal records investigated by Judicial Watch indicate they are out of compliance with the NVRA. That is, their voter rolls are dirty.

In September, we advised the District of Columbia Board of Elections that according to federal records, the district had removed no—none, zero, nada—voter registrations during the last two-year reporting period due to change of residence. Voters can be removed from the voting rolls for failing to respond to an address confirmation notice and not voting in two consecutive federal elections. “In our experience, and as a matter of common sense,” we noted, “there is no possible way that the DC [Board of Elections] is complying with the NVRA if it removed no registrations.”

The Board of Elections responded quickly. Citing data conversion and staffing issues, DC officials admitted they had not complied with the NVRA. They removed 65,000 ineligible registrations from the voter rolls, promised to remove an additional 38,000, designated another 73,000 as “inactive,” and pledged to do more.

Judicial Watch has considerable experience with dirty voter rolls in California. In 2019, we uncovered 1.6 million inactive voters in Los Angeles County and forced LA to clean up its act.

In October, mining new federal data, we advised California Secretary of State Shirley Weber that the state again was in violation of the NVRA. Data analyzed by Judicial Watch showed that twenty-seven California counties removed five or fewer voter registrations in two-year federal reporting period; that another nineteen counties reported no data at all; and that twenty-one counties “have more voter registrations than citizens of voting age.”

We wrote the California secretary of state that both “common sense and Judicial Watch’s enforcement experience confirm that there is no possible way California has complied with…the key NVRA provision dealing with voters who have changed residence, when forty-six of its fifty-seven counties either removed no or just a few registrations under that provision, or failed to report removals at all, for the past two reporting years.”

In November, we notified the Illinois State Board of Elections that, based on a Judicial Watch analysis of federal reporting data, “your office is currently in violation” of the NVRA.

The numbers reported by Illinois were ludicrously low. Twenty-three Illinois counties each reported removing fewer than fifteen registrations. And thirty-four jurisdictions simply did not bother to report any data at all. The fifty-seven counties contain more than five million registered voters.

With those numbers, there is “no possible way Illinois and the [State Board of Elections] have complied” with key NVRA provisions, we advised state officials.

We also noted that Illinois registration rates were unusually high. We compared federal data on registration rates reported by Illinois to the U.S. Census Bureau’s estimate of Illinois citizens over the age of eighteen. Our analysis concluded that “fifteen Illinois jurisdictions have more voter registrations than citizens of voting age.”

More voter registrations than citizens of voting age: that’s an invitation to election fraud.

Illinois is a persistent thorn in the side of free and fair elections. In July, we successfully settled another election integrity lawsuit against the state. State officials had erected significant roadblocks to access of voter registration lists sought by state residents—imposing strict limits on citizens’ ability to view and study voter records. This was a clear violation of the NVRA, we said. Illinois’ restrictions—which required reviewing millions of registrations at one time, on a single computer screen, in a single office, during business hours—”make a mockery” of federal law, we argued.

A federal judge agreed. Judicial Watch had made the case that Illinois law “conflicts with…and frustrates the NVRA’s purpose of providing voter information to the public to help ensure the accuracy and currency of voter registration rolls,” wrote U.S. District Judge Sara Ellis.

In another Illinois election integrity case, we went to federal court in 2022 on behalf of Congressman Mike Bost and other voters to stop state officials from extending Election Day for two weeks beyond the date established by federal law. “Despite Congress’ clear statement regarding a single national Election Day,” we noted in our brief, “Illinois has expanded Election Day by extending by 14 days the date for receipt and counting of vote-by-mail ballots.”

“We’re supposed to have an Election Day, not Election Weeks—or months,” said JW President Tom Fitton. The fourteen-day extension “is illegal, violates the civil rights of voters, and encourages fraud.”

The federal District Court for the Northern District of Illinois dismissed our case. It accepted the argument of state officials that the fourteen-day extension caused no harm to Bost and others. We appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, saying that the new fourteen-day deadline “inflicted concrete, particular, tangible and intangible injuries,” including considerable expenditures of time and money in increased post-election costs. Read the JW legal briefs on the appeal here and here.

Oral arguments at the Seventh Circuit are expected soon, with a ruling by fall.

In Mississippi, as well, Judicial Watch is taking on election laws that seek to extend voting beyond the single day set by Congress. We filed a civil rights lawsuit challenging Mississippi’s law permitting absentee ballots to be received up to five days after Election Day.

Our lawsuit notes that up to 1.7% of ballots cast in Mississippi in 2020 were received after Election Day. “Counting untimely, illegal, and invalid votes, such as those received [in Mississippi] in violation of federal law, substantially increases the pool of total votes cast and dilutes the weight of votes cast” on Election Day.

Judicial Watch is committed to fighting for voting integrity and voting rights anywhere we see a threat to free and fair elections. Stay tuned in the coming months for updates on our cases in Mississippi, Illinois, California, and the District of Columbia.

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The motto of Judicial Watch is “Because no one is above the law”. To this end, Judicial Watch uses the open records or freedom of information laws and other tools to investigate and uncover misconduct by government officials and litigation to hold to account politicians and public officials who engage in corrupt activities.