Judicial Watch announced today that it signed a settlement agreement with the State of California and 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).
The NVRA is 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.
Judicial Watch 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)). Judicial Watch sued on its 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. Judicial Watch was also joined by Election Integrity Project California, Inc., a public interest group that has long been involved in monitoring California’s voter rolls.
In its lawsuit, Judicial Watch 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. Judicial Watch notes that “Los Angeles County has the highest number of inactive registrations of any single county in the country.”
The Judicial Watch 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 today 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, Judicial Watch 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.
This is only the third statewide settlement achieved by private plaintiffs under the NVRA – and Judicial Watch was 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.
“This settlement vindicates Judicial Watch’s groundbreaking lawsuits to clean up state voter rolls to help ensure cleaner elections,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Judicial Watch and its clients are thrilled with this historic settlement that will clean up election rolls in Los Angeles County and California – and set a nationwide precedent to ensure that states take reasonable steps to ensure that dead and other ineligible voters are removed from the rolls.”
Judicial Watch Attorney Robert Popper is the director of the organization’s Election Integrity Project and led the Judicial Watch legal team in this litigation.
Judicial Watch is the national leader in enforcing the list maintenance provisions of the NVRA. In addition to its settlement agreements with Ohio and win in Kentucky, Judicial Watch filed a successful NVRA lawsuit against Indiana, causing it to voluntarily clean up its voting rolls, and has an ongoing lawsuit with the State of Maryland.
Judicial Watch helped the State of Ohio to successfully defend their settlement agreement before the Supreme Court. In North Carolina, Judicial Watch supported implementation of the state’s election integrity reform laws, filing amicus briefs in the Supreme Court in March 2017. And, in April 2018, Judicial Watch filed an amicus brief in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in support of Alabama’s voter ID law. In Georgia, Judicial Watch filed an amicus brief in support of Secretary Brian Kemp’s list maintenance process against a lawsuit by left-wing groups. Judicial Watch and Georgia won when the Supreme Court ruled in Ohio’s favor.
Judicial Watch was 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.