It’s no secret that voter registration lists are filled with inaccuracies. People move. Or change their names. Or die. But it can take months if not years for the rolls to get updated. Now, conservative groups are taking a number of election officials to court, saying they’re not doing their jobs. Liberal groups think the real purpose is to make it more difficult for some people to vote. The lawsuits have targeted about a dozen counties so far in Texas, Florida, North Carolina and Mississippi. And even some cities, such as Philadelphia and Alexandria, Va. “This is an effort to make the voter rolls cleaner and to follow federal law before the elections in November,” says J. Christian Adams, president of the Public Interest Legal Foundation. His group is behind the suits, along with the American Civil Rights Union. Adams is a former Justice Department official who has been at the forefront of efforts to restore what he calls “election integrity.”
Adams says they have identified over 200 counties that have more registered voters than they have residents. “We’re asking states and local officials to comply with the law, to remove people who have died, to look at their citizenship lists, to find out who’s on the rolls that shouldn’t be on the rolls. Who could be against that?” says Adams.
Stuart Naifeh, senior counsel for Demos, a public policy group fighting some of the suits, agrees that cleaning up voter rolls is important. But he worries these suits aim to go much further. He says many of the lawsuits are directed at low-income, Democratic-leaning counties.
“They are targeting in many cases jurisdictions that don’t have the resources to fight back,” says Naifeh. “The end goal seems to be getting these kinds of settlement agreements that require the state to do aggressive voter purging.”