Virginia Threatened With Lawsuit Over Non-Citizen Voter Roll Maintenance

Election integrity group says procedures to remove non-citizens resulted in eligible citizens being removed from rolls

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January 8, 2019

The Virginia Department of Elections is being threatened with litigation over its procedures to remove non-citizens from voter rolls by an election integrity group that says the state's procedure is resulting in the wrongful removal of eligible citizens from its registrations.

The Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF), a group that litigates to protect election integrity, sent a notice to the Virginia Department of Elections on Dec. 12 warning that it could face a lawsuit unless it corrects its voter roll maintenance procedures. The department has yet to respond to the group nearly one month after the notice was delivered, according to its spokesman.

The PILF released a report in 2017 that detailed how state election officials removed 5.556 noncitizen voters from rolls between 2011 and 2017. Of the 5,556 noncitizens removed, 1,852 cast a total of 7,474 ballots in elections.

The December notice from the election integrity group said that some U.S. citizens also have been removed from its rolls and cited separate litigation in which several current and former Virginia residents who are citizens were named in noncitizen cancellation reports from the Commonwealth.

PILF alleges that Virginia's maintenance program violates the National Voter Registration Act by sending communications to potential non-citizen registrants in English only to areas where bilingual communications are federally required.

The group is additionally seeking a number of records to identify the failures resulting in wrongful removals that include documents from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles concerning all persons who indicated non-citizen status from Jan. 1, 2008 to present and documents received by the office from the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements Program concerning persons identified as actual or potential non-United States citizens, among other records.

"By all appearances and even some prior admissions, U.S. citizens registered to vote in Virginia are being selected by a system designed to identify non-citizens and sets them on a 14-day track for removal from the voter roll," said Logan Churchwell, communications director for the PILF. "While it is unclear at this time how the otherwise reasonable effort to maintain accurate voter records is failing, we do know these breakdowns are not in keeping with federal law."

Churchwell said the group has yet to respond to its requests.

"To date, the Commonwealth has not stepped forward to cure any concerns raised or provide requested documents offering better insights into the failures at hand. Federal law requires that PILF give Virginia 90 days before a case is filed. The clock is still ticking down."

A spokesperson for the Virginia Department of Elections said they do not comment on pending litigation.