By Tom Fitton
Big JW Victory: California and Los Angeles County to Remove 1.5 Million Inactive Voters from Voter Rolls
Good news for the voters in California and across the country.
We have signed a settlement agreement with the State of California and the County of Los Angeles under which they will begin the process of removing from their voter registration rolls as many as 1.5 million inactive registered names that may be invalid.
These removals are required by the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), a federal law requiring the removal of inactive registrations from the voter rolls after two general federal elections (encompassing from 2 to 4 years). Inactive voter registrations belong, for the most part, to voters who have moved to another county or state or have passed away.
Los Angeles County has over 10 million residents, more than the populations of 41 of the 50 United States. California is America’s largest state, with almost 40 million residents.
We filed a 2017 federal lawsuit to force the cleanup of voter rolls (Judicial Watch, Inc., et al. v. Dean C. Logan, et al. (No. 2:17-cv-08948)). We sued on our own behalf and on behalf of Wolfgang Kupka, Rhue Guyant, Jerry Griffin, and Delores M. Mars, who are lawfully registered voters in Los Angeles County. We were joined by Election Integrity Project California, Inc., a public interest group that has long been involved in monitoring California’s voter rolls.
In our lawsuit, we alleged:
- Los Angeles County has more voter registrations on its voter rolls than it has citizens who are old enough to register. Specifically, according to data provided to and published by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, Los Angeles County has a registration rate of 112 percent of its adult citizen population.
- The entire State of California has a registration rate of about 101 percent of its age-eligible citizenry.
- Eleven of California’s 58 counties have registration rates exceeding 100 percent of the age-eligible citizenry.
The lawsuit confirmed that Los Angeles County has on its rolls more than 1.5 million potentially ineligible voters. This means that more than one out of every five LA County registrations likely belongs to a voter who has moved or is deceased. We noted: “Los Angeles County has the highest number of inactive registrations of any single county in the country.”
Our lawsuit also uncovered that neither the State of California nor Los Angeles County had been removing inactive voters from the voter registration rolls for the past 20 years. The Supreme Court affirmed last year in Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Inst., 138 S. Ct. 1833 (2018) that the NVRA “makes this removal mandatory.”
The new settlement agreement, filed with U.S. District Court Judge Manuel L. Real, requires all of the 1.5 million potentially ineligible registrants to be notified and asked to respond. If there is no response, those names are to be removed as required by the NVRA. California Secretary of State Padilla also agrees to update the State’s online NVRA manual to make clear that ineligible names must be removed and to notify each California county that they are obligated to do this. This should lead to cleaner voter rolls statewide.
Prior to this settlement agreement, we estimated that based on comparisons of national census data to voter-roll information, there were 3.5 million more names on various county voter rolls than there were citizens of voting age. This settlement could cut this number in half.
Judicial Watch Attorney Robert Popper is the director of our Election Integrity Project and led our legal team in this litigation. We were assisted in this case by Charles H. Bell Jr., of Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk, LLP; and H. Christopher Coates of Law Office of H. Christopher Coates.
This is only the third statewide settlement achieved by private plaintiffs under the NVRA – and we were the plaintiff in each of those cases. The other statewide settlements are with Ohio (in 2014) and with Kentucky (2018), which agreed to a court-ordered consent decree.
You can take pride in knowing that we are the national leader in enforcing the list maintenance provisions of the NVRA. In addition to settlement agreements with Ohio and a win in Kentucky, we have filed a successful NVRA lawsuit against Indiana, causing it to voluntarily clean up its voting rolls, and we have an ongoing lawsuit with the State of Maryland.
We helped the State of Ohio successfully defend their settlement agreement before the Supreme Court. In North Carolina, we supported implementation of the state’s election integrity reform laws, filing amicus briefs in the Supreme Court in March 2017. And, in April 2018, we filed an amicus brief in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in support of Alabama’s voter ID law. In Georgia, we filed an amicus brief in support of Secretary Brian Kemp’s list maintenance process against a lawsuit by left-wing groups. We won when the Supreme Court ruled in Ohio’s favor.
This settlement vindicates our groundbreaking lawsuits to clean up state voter rolls to help ensure cleaner elections. We are thrilled with this historic settlement, which will set a nationwide precedent to ensure that states take reasonable steps to ensure that dead and other ineligible voters are removed from the rolls.