There was a historic victory for election integrity on Wednesday: A federal court approved a consent decree in a lawsuit filed in Mississippi by the American Civil Rights Union (ACRU) that requires a local county to finally clean up its voter registration list.
As The Foundry previously reported, the ACRU sued Walthall County (a majority-white county that Mitt Romney won in 2012) under the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA) because of the county’s failure to remove ineligible felons, dead voters, voters who had moved, and noncitizens from its voter rolls. In fact, Walthall County has more registered voters than the Census shows it has voting-age residents by 124 percent, a problem shared by a dozen counties in Mississippi. Section 8 of the NVRA requires states and counties to maintain accurate voter rolls by engaging in regular list maintenance that removes ineligible voters.
In the consent decree approved by Judge Keith Starrett of the Southern District of Mississippi, Walthall County must check its voter registration list against:
- The records of the Social Security Administration and the Mississippi Department of Health to find dead voters;
- State Department of Motor Vehicles records to find voters who have moved out of the county;
- Conviction records of the local county court clerk, the Mississippi Department of Corrections, and the Mississippi and Louisiana U.S. attorneys’ offices to find felons;
- The Department of Homeland Security’s Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) database to find noncitizens; and
- Jury-duty declinations and county tax filings to find noncitizens and nonresidents.
Walthall will also have to send out a first-class, nonforwardable mailing to its entire voter registration list to find individuals who have moved out of the county. Not only is the county given various deadlines to complete all of these activities, but it will also have to provide the ACRU with a detailed report on all of the ineligible voters it has found and removed. The county is obligated to turn over to local and federal law enforcement officials the names of ineligible voters such as felons and noncitizens who are found to have registered or voted illegally.
This is the first time any private organization has successfully used the NVRA to force election officials to clean up their inaccurate, bloated voter registration lists. As one of the ACRU’s lawyers, Christian Adams says, “This case should have been called United States v. Walthall instead of ACRU v. Walthall County. We’re doing the job that Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. won’t do. In fact, he’s too busy suing Texas for its new photo ID law and abusing power in other ways to harass states that are trying to ensure election integrity.”
The ACRU’s second NVRA lawsuit—against Jefferson Davis County (a majority black county that voted for Obama in 2012) for refusing to clean up its voter registration list—remains pending. The Justice Department has refused to participate in that litigation as well.