A watchdog group threatened to sue three states Thursday if they do not police their voting registration rolls more diligently before the November elections.
The rolls in some counties of Colorado, Florida and Michigan are suspiciously high, sometimes exceeding the number of voting-age adults there, said the Honest Election Project.
The group sent letters to the secretaries of state in Colorado, Florida and Michigan — each a crucial 2020 presidential battleground — demanding they take legally required steps to ensure their lists are accurate and inform the group of the measures they have taken before November.
They accused the three states of failing to keep track of voters who may have moved, died or been incarcerated, leading to figures that seem impossible given census data.
“It’s a simple comparison of publicly available records,” said Jason Snead, executive director of the project.
The National Voter Registration Act requires that concerned voters first inform state officials about the problem, and the voters can then file suit in 90 days if they believe the state’s moves are insufficient.
The conservative-allied project is racing toward a confrontation with Democrats who accuse Republicans of purging voter rolls to suppress voting, especially minority voting.
Purging registration rolls has been a hotly contested in several places. In Georgia, Democrats lodged allegations of voter suppression when the party lost the 2018 gubernatorial race.
On Thursday, the Florida Democratic Party sounded alarms following news reports that election officials in Collier County, which includes Naples, had put a majority of its 2016 voters on to inactive lists.
Juan Penalosa, executive director of the Florida Democratic Party, said the purge was “most onerous to people of color and young voters and voters that tend to be Democrats.” He demanded the voters be returned to active status.
“They go over the top,” he said. “They’re kind of double-dipping to remove voters.”
The Honest Election Project’s action stems from voters in the three states who came forward to serve as litigants with standing for legal action in each state. They are being represented by the law firm Consovoy McCarthy.
William Consovoy, a founding partner of the firm, previously represented President Trump in personal matters.
The secretaries of state did not respond to a request for comment, although they will likely not receive the letters until Friday, Mr. Snead said.
Nationwide, the average registration rate is around 66 percent of “voting-age adults” listed as living there in Census Bureau data, according to Honest Elections.
In Florida, where Mr. Trump narrowly defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016, there were 7 counties where the registration rate was more than 100 percent of eligible voters there, a seemingly impossible figure that was matched by 5 in Colorado and 1 in Michigan, the group said. All three states had myriad counties where the registration roll topped 90 percent of eligible voters, again a figure suspiciously higher than the national average.
All three of those states were decided by thin margins in the 2016 election, with Mr. Trump taking Michigan by just 0.4%.
“I would like to believe it’s an open and shut case, because if officials are going to permit or tolerate bloated rolls of more than 100 percent that’s a powerful message they aren’t taking election integrity seriously,” Mr. Snead said.
Nevertheless, he predicted pushback and the 5-page letters signed by Mr. Consovoy ask state officials to preserve a variety of records because of anticipated litigation.
“It could be practical or it could be political, but often there’s a lack of will,” he said.
Courts have upheld steps taken in Ohio and Georgia to remove names of people who hadn’t voted in many years or could not be located, but allegations of voter suppression continue to be leveled.
Despite the likelihood of lawsuits, Mr. Snead insists he would “like to see this become a depoliticized” move state officials make to bring their registration lists in compliance with federal law.
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