LA County cleanup of voter rolls likely to cut 1.5 mil­lion

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY STEPHEN DINAN

Los An­ge­les County has agreed to con­duct a purge of its vot­ing rolls, in a move that could strip per­haps 1.5 mil­lion in­ac­tive vot­ers from the lists of those el­i­gi­ble to cast bal­lots.

The county made the deal in a set­tle­ment with Ju­di­cial Watch, a con­ser­va­tive pub­lic in­ter­est firm, say­ing that un­der a re­cent Supreme Court rul­ing, it has a duty to re­move names of peo­ple who ap­pear to have ei­ther died, moved from the county or lost in­ter­est in vot­ing.

The county com­mit­ted to mail­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands of vot­ers al­ready deemed in­ac­tive to see whether they were still el­i­gi­ble vot­ers, and to re­mov­ing names of peo­ple who didn’t re­spond to no­tices and who missed two sub­se­quent fed­eral elec­tions. The county also agreed to try to weed out dead peo­ple on the rolls.

Cal­i­for­nia Sec­re­tary of State Alex Padilla, who was also part of the set­tle­ment, com­mit­ted to send no­tices to all reg­is­trars in­form­ing them that they, too, must take steps to can­cel vot­ers who miss vot­ing in re­peated elec­tions and fail to re­spond to fol­low-up no­tices.

Ju­di­cial Watch called the set­tle­ment, in­volv­ing both the na­tion’s big­gest state and the big­gest county, a sig­nif­i­cant win for con­ser­va­tives who have been try­ing to har­ness the 1993 Na­tional Voter Reg­is­tra­tion Act, bet­ter known as “Mo­tor-Voter,” to try to clean up voter rolls even as Democrats use the law to ex­pand voter ac­cess.

“This is a ma­jor NVRA vic­tory — prob­a­bly the big­gest in the history,” said Robert Pop­per, the Ju­di­cial Watch lawyer who fought the case.

He pre­dicted that most of the more than 1.5 mil­lion names on the county’s in­ac­tive voter list will end up be­ing re­moved.

Mr. Padilla, the sec­re­tary of state, dis­puted Ju­di­cial Watch’s claims, say­ing he didn’t agree to specif­i­cally kick any­one off the rolls.

“The set­tle­ment is clear and sim­ple, Cal­i­for­nia will con­tinue its work to ad­here to mod­ern list main­te­nance pro­ce­dures un­der the NVRA,” he said in a state­ment. “This set­tle­ment will not lead to un­nec­es­sary re­moval of ac­tive and el­i­gi­ble vot­ers. Safe­guards re­main in place to en­sure voter list main­te­nance pro­ce­dures are fol­lowed be­fore can­cel­ing any voter reg­is­tra­tion records.”

Nei­ther the Los An­ge­les regis­trar nor the county’s coun­sel re­turned mes­sages seek­ing com­ment. Nei­ther did the League of Women Vot­ers or Mia Fa­milia, both of which sought un­suc­cess­fully to in­ter­vene in the case ear­lier.

Cal­i­for­nia be­comes the third state to reach a set­tle­ment. Ohio reached one in 2014, and Ken­tucky en­tered into a courtim­posed con­sent de­cree with Ju­di­cial Watch over its voter rolls last year.

Mr. Pop­per said the mo­tor-voter law was a com­pro­mise. It boosted voter par­tic­i­pa­tion by re­quir­ing states to reg­is­ter vot­ers at pub­lic of­fices such as mo­tor ve­hi­cle bu­reaus, but it also en­cour­aged states to keep their lists clean by re­mov­ing out­dated names in or­der to tamp down the chances of fraud.

Democrats have chiefly fo­cused on the ex­pan­sion of reg­is­tra­tion while bat­tling ef­forts to clean the rolls.

One ex­am­ple of that, Mr. Pop­per said, was a 1998 de­ci­sion by the Clinton Jus­tice De­part­ment in­struct­ing Cal­i­for­nia not to re­move vot­ers iden­ti­fied as in­ac­tive be­cause they failed to re­spond to fol­low-up com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

Other states have made ar­gu­ments.

But the Supreme Court, in a ma­jor 5-4 rul­ing last year, said states can use non­re­sponses as part of their jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for cleans­ing rolls — and that peo­ple who have been no­ti­fied and missed two sub­se­quent fed­eral elec­tions must go.

“Not only are states al­lowed to re­move reg­is­trants who sat­isfy these re­quire­ments, but fed­eral law makes this re­moval manda­tory,” the ma­jor­ity ruled.

The agree­ment reached high­lighted that part of the rul­ing, which ap­peared to un­der­cut Los An­ge­les’ le­gal po­si­tion and leave the county with lit­tle choice but to set­tle.

Ju­di­cial Watch said it tar­geted Los An­ge­les after find­ing the county’s to­tal voter pop­u­la­tion was higher than the num­ber of peo­ple the Cen­sus Bureau es­ti­mates to be cit­i­zens of vot­ing age in the county. That’s true for the state over­all, which Ju­di­cial Watch said has a 101 per­cent reg­is­tra­tion rate for its el­i­gi­ble adult pop­u­la­tion.

Mr. Pop­per said while much of the na­tional de­bate about voter fraud is on in-per­son abuses, the big­ger prob­lem is fraud­u­lent dou­ble-vot­ing, which can hap­pen if some­one is still get­ting a bal­lot or is reg­is­tered at their old res­i­dence, while also be­ing reg­is­tered and vot­ing at their new home.

He said Los An­ge­les’ in­ac­tive voter file is a ma­jor po­ten­tial source for mis­chief.

Con­trary to the im­pres­sion left by sev­eral me­dia fact-check­ers, “in­ac­tive” vot­ers in Cal­i­for­nia are able to cast a le­gal reg­u­lar bal­lot. The dif­fer­ence be­tween them and ac­tive vot­ers is that those on the in­ac­tive list don’t get reg­u­lar com­mu­ni­ca­tions such as sam­ple bal­lots from elec­tions of­fi­cials.

The set­tle­ment agree­ment is just one of the bat­tle­grounds over vot­ing rights to emerge in re­cent years.

Democrats won con­trol of the House in the midterm elec­tions in part on a cam­paign ar­gu­ing that Repub­li­cans were sup­press­ing the votes of ra­cial and eth­nic mi­nori­ties and poor peo­ple. They have vowed ac­tion to ex­pand voter ac­cess and cur­tail voter in­tegrity checks.

H.R.1, Democrats’ first mar­quee bill, would re­quire states to al­low same-day and in­ter­net reg­is­tra­tion. It would also amend mo­tor-voter to over­turn last year’s Supreme Court de­ci­sion, elim­i­nat­ing the abil­ity of states to re­move peo­ple for fail­ing to vote or re­spond to fol­low-up no­tices. sim­i­lar

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