Issues

Pittsburgh County Sued Over Dead, Duplicate Registrants on Voter Rolls

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Allegheny County, home to the city of Pittsburgh, has been hit with a lawsuit over irregularities on its voter rolls, including dead voters, duplicate registrants, and one registered voter marked as being born in June 1800.

The Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF), an election integrity group, filed suit last week against Allegheny County's manager of elections and three members of its board of elections. The group says election officials failed to reasonably maintain the county's voter rolls in accord with federal and state law. The suit alleges that the rolls contain nearly 1,600 dead registrants and 7,500 registrants with erroneous information, among thousands of other discrepancies and illegal registrations.

The lawsuit, which comes less than eight months before the 2020 elections, concerns a heavily Democratic county in an important battleground state. Donald Trump won Pennsylvania by 44,000 votes out of the 5.9 million votes cast in the state (less than 1 point) during the 2016 election. Hillary Clinton and other Democratic leaders have attributed high-profile Democratic losses to "voter suppression," but PILF has found tens of thousands of ineligible registrations in battleground states.

"We want two things for the citizens of Allegheny County," said Logan Churchwell, communications director for PILF. "First, the cited flaws within the voter registration list need to be addressed head-on. Second, we need the federal court to help establish guardrails so these types of problems do not arise again. If our intelligence services are correct, we must always be vigilant against outside intrusion and sabotage attacks in these systems. Energetic voter list maintenance efforts are frontline protections against that threat."

"Anyone who has a problem with cleaning up duplicated voter registrations is no longer allowed to proclaim they stand for the tenet of ‘one person, one vote,'" Churchwell said.

Dave Voye, the Allegheny County elections division manager, said it's county policy to not comment on litigation matters. However, because "this case concerns the conduct of elections," he would address the matter publicly.

"The first and foremost concern of Allegheny County is to protect the voting rights of all citizens," Voye said. "Each citizen registered to vote gets one vote should they choose to exercise that right. There are no allegations that anything to the contrary has occurred. The allegations in this lawsuit will be reviewed and addressed as necessary consistent with all applicable federal and state laws. As is always the case with voter registration list maintenance, the utmost care will be taken to ensure that no one is disenfranchised."

Using voter data from Pennsylvania secretary of state's office, PILF compared registration lists against federal death records and other sources. The group examined registrants who "managed to become registered to vote two and even up to seven times with matching or substantially similar names and other biographical information with the same addresses." The group also flagged voters with "impossibly old dates of birth," including 1,523 registrants who aged 100 or above (with 49 born in the 1800s). One registrant was stated as being born in June 1800. The group also says 1,178 registrations are missing dates of birth, 193 registrants are missing dates of registration, and 35 registrants have corrupted or out-of-state addresses.

The Pittsburgh lawsuit comes shortly after the group filed a similar one in Detroit, a predominantly Democratic city in the swing state of Michigan.

PILF found that Detroit's voter rolls contained 2,500 deceased individuals, nearly 5,000 voters who appeared more than once on the voter rolls, and 511,786 registered voters in a city where only 479,267 individuals are eligible to vote. A number of New York lawyers and liberal groups swarmed Detroit to help its election officials fight the litigation.