The watchdog group Judicial Watch has sent notice letters to election officials in the District of Columbia, California, and Illinois, notifying them of evident violations of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) of 1993, based on their failure to remove inactive voters from their registration rolls.
The letters point out that these jurisdictions publicly reported removing few or no ineligible voter registrations they were required to remove under a key provision of the NVRA. The letters threaten federal lawsuits unless the violations are corrected in a timely fashion.
In response to Judicial Watch’s inquiries, Washington, DC, officials admitted that they had not complied with the NVRA, promptly removing 65,544 outdated names from the voting rolls, promising to remove 37,962 more, and designating another 73,522 registrations as “inactive.”
The NVRA requires states to “conduct a general program that makes a reasonable effort to remove” from the official voter rolls “the names of ineligible voters” who have died or changed residence.
The law requires registrations to be cancelled when voters fail to respond to address confirmation notices and then fail to vote in the next two general federal elections.
Federal law directs the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to submit a report to Congress every second year assessing how states are complying with the NVRA. Federal regulations require states to provide data to the EAC for use in this report.
On June 29, 2023, the EAC posted data from the most recent surveys it sent to the states and the District of Columbia for the reporting period from November 2020 through November 2022.
Based on the data contained in this report, Judicial Watch contacted a number of states and Washington, DC, to inquire about their compliance with federal law and to request public records. After processing the responses to these communications, Judicial Watch sent notice of violation letters to Washington, DC, California, and Illinois, detailing their non-compliance with the NVRA.
The notice letter to the District of Columbia, sent on behalf of Judicial Watch and the District of Columbia Republican Party, reports:
- DC reported removing zero voter registrations in the last two-year reporting period for failing to respond to an address confirmation notice and failing to vote for two consecutive general federal elections.
- DC flatly admitted in correspondence with Judicial Watch that it was failing to remove registrations as required by the NVRA, citing data conversion, staffing, and other issues.
- DC’s total registration rate—its total number of registrations divided by the most recent census estimates of its citizen voting-age population—is greater than 131%.
The notice letter to California, sent on behalf of Judicial Watch and the Libertarian Party of California, states:
- California’s survey responses to the EAC show that 27 California counties reported removing five or fewer—and, in most of those counties, zero—voter registrations in the last two-year period for failing to respond to an address confirmation notice and failing to vote in two consecutive general federal elections.
- Another 19 California counties simply did not report any data about such removals.
- Twenty-one California counties had more voter registrations than citizens over the age of 18, based on the most recent census estimates.
In all, 46 California counties reported removing only a handful, or no registrations under the NVRA’s change of address rules, or else failed to report any data at all. These 46 counties contain more than 14 million registered voters.
The notice letter to Illinois, sent on behalf of Judicial Watch, Illinois resident and voter Carol J. Davis, and Illinois Family Action, states:
- In Illinois’ responses to the EAC’s survey, 23 Illinois counties reported removing fewer than 15—and, in almost half of those counties, zero—voter registrations from November 2020 to November 2022 for failing to respond to an address confirmation notice and failing to vote in two consecutive general federal elections.
- Thirty-four Illinois jurisdictions simply did not report any data about such removals.
- Fifteen Illinois jurisdictions have more voter registrations than citizens of voting age.
In total, 57 Illinois counties that either reported removing 15 or fewer registrations or failed to report any data at all under the NVRA’s change of address removal procedures. These 57 counties contain over five million registered voters.
Last month, the District of Columbia admitted in correspondence to Judicial Watch that it removed 65,544 inactive voters, will soon remove an additional 37,962 inactive voters, and that it has designated another 73,522 inactive names for potential removal.
California provided some public records and promised a further, substantive response. Illinois provided some public records and promises a further, substantive response.
Ultimately, however, if Judicial Watch is not satisfied with the jurisdictions’ responses to its notice letters, the watchdog group says it plans to sue under the National Voter Registration Act to ensure the jurisdictions take certain reasonable steps to clean up their voter rolls as the law requires.
“Dirty voter rolls increase the potential for voter fraud,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “As Washington, DC’s, quick cleanup of tens of thousands of names in response to Judicial Watch shows, there are potentially hundreds of thousands of names on the voter rolls that should be removed by California and Illinois. Indeed, Judicial Watch litigation resulted in the removal of four million names from voter rolls in various states recently.”