HARRISBURG – Purging lawful voters from Pennsylvania’s voter rolls is illegal and undemocratic, voting rights groups said today while filing a motion to intervene to protect voting rights in the state.
Common Cause Pennsylvania and the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania filed the motion in a federal lawsuit, Judicial Watch v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. In that case, a pro-voter purge group is seeking to force three Pennsylvania counties to remove thousands of voters from the rolls before the upcoming election.
“Common Cause is dedicated to ensuring that every eligible voter can cast a ballot,” said Suzanne Almeida, Interim Executive Director for Common Cause Pennsylvania. “While reasonable list maintenance procedures are a necessary part of election administration, we staunchly oppose any effort that would result in the removal of eligible voters from the voting rolls.”
“The data proposed by this challenge is unverified and deliberately targets senior voters and Black voters,” said Terrie Griffin, co-president of the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania. “This is just another attempt by an outside group to parachute in to disenfranchise Pennsylvania voters. In a presidential election year, during a global pandemic, our election officials should be focused on securing and safely administering our elections. Instead, they are forced to deal with the distraction of an illegitimate voter roll challenge.”
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the ACLU of Pennsylvania, the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP filed the motion on behalf of Common Cause Pennsylvania and the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania.
Last week Judicial Watch, an organization well known for disenfranchising voters, filed a lawsuit against Bucks, Chester and Delaware County officials and Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar. The group seeks to remove untold thousands of voters from the rolls in the counties. The organization bases its claims on unverified, self-generated data. The case is similar to lawsuits recently filed by other organizations seeking to purge voters in Allegheny County, as well as heavily-populated counties in Michigan and North Carolina, ahead of the 2020 election.
Despite the lawsuit’s claims, the available evidence indicates that Bucks, Chester and Delaware Counties are engaging in regular voter list maintenance practices. Moreover, this unnecessary lawsuit will only serve to add further strain on counties’ and election officials’ resources during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
By filing a motion to intervene, Common Cause Pennsylvania and the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania seek to protect eligible Pennsylvania voters who are at risk of being wrongfully purged from the rolls by this calculated lawsuit. Common Cause and the League of Women Voters perform valuable voter assistance and education while also serving as a bridge between county election officials and their voters to ensure that elections are administered in a secure and accessible manner for all.
“We have serious concerns that eligible voters in these three counties could be illegally purged from voter registration rolls, which is why we are stepping in,” said Adriel Cepeda Derieux, an attorney with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. “We want to ensure eligible voters and election integrity are protected."
“Counties routinely clean up their voter registration lists of inactive voters and people who are deceased,” said Witold Walczak, legal director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “But when outside actors try to strong arm the counties into excessive purging, that can lead to the disenfranchisement of eligible voters. Our clients have every reason to defend the interests of voters, and we hope the court recognizes that.”
“The Constitutional right to vote is one of our most sacred rights as citizens and represents the most direct means by which most of us participate in our democratic institutions. Any attempt to unfairly disenfranchise eligible voters is an attack on these institutions and must be strongly resisted,” said William T. Russell, Jr., a partner at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP.
“The Pennsylvania counties who have been sued in this case are already doing their part to clean their voter rolls,” said John Powers, Counsel with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “This lawsuit seeks to force these counties to engage in unwarranted and unnecessary purging in advance of the 2020 election. If this litigation succeeds, eligible Pennsylvania voters will be purged from the rolls and disenfranchised.”
A copy of the brief in support of the motion to intervene can be found here.