NH Secretary of State Bill Gardner has to be watching with interest as Judicial Watch announced signing a settlement agreement in its law suit with the State of California and County of Los Angeles (Judicial Watch, Inc., et al. v. Dean C. Logan, et al. (No. 2:17-cv-08948)). Under the agreement both government entities agree to begin the process of removing from their voter registration rolls as many as 1.5 million inactive registered names. The removals are required by the federal National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), often referred to as motor voter.
What should have happened?
NVRA requires the removal of inactive registrations from the voter rolls. The time requirement for removal is after 2 general federal elections. Inactive voter registrations are, for the most part, voters who have moved or have passed away. There are two other concerns in California’s administration of NVRA not addressed in the settlement: Registration of illegal aliens, people who are non-citizens and are therefore ineligible to vote and vote harvesting which is collection of absentee ballots by a political organization as a public service.
Why is it important?
Improving the integrity on the voter registration system in these jurisdictions was the aim of the suit. California is America’s most populous state, with almost 40 million residents. LA County is California’s most populous county with over 10 million residents. By comparison that makes LA County more populous than 41 of the 50 States. The Judicial Watch suit alleged three things:
•Los Angeles County has more registered voters on its rolls than it has citizens old enough to register. That is based on U.S. Election Assistance Commission data showing LA County’s registration rate as 112% the adult citizen population.
•The entire State of California has a registration rate of about 101% of its age-eligible citizenry.
•Eleven of California’s 58 counties have registration rates exceeding 100% of the age-eligible citizenry.
How do we fix it?
Judicial Watch notes that “Los Angeles County has the highest number of inactive registrations of any single county in the country.” The lawsuit also uncovered that neither the State of California nor LA County had been removing inactive voters from the voter registration rolls as required for 20 years. The settlement agreement requires all of the 1.5 million potentially ineligible registrants, which is more ineligible voters on the rolls in LA County than there are people in NH, to be notified and asked to respond. Non-response will mean removal from the voter roll. Additionally, California Secretary of State Padilla also agrees to update the State’s online NVRA manual making clear ineligible names must be removed and to notify each California county it is obligated to comply.
The California DMV’s process of automatically registering people to vote is credited with boosting voter registration and turnout. According to the California Secretary of State’s Office voter registration was increased nearly by 1.5 million people between 2014 and 2018. The Sacramento Bee reported the motor-voter law raised questions about the number of illegal immigrants and other non-citizens who may have voted in the June primary and November gubernatorial and congressional midterm election. California officials cannot say whether non-citizens voted. California Secretary of State Padilla has confirmed his office is actively investigating whether noncitizens voted last year because the DMV erroneously registered them to vote.
Even without specific examples of voter fraud this situation undermines confidence in the integrity of the voting system. It calls into question the integrity of NVRA. Having bloated and inaccurate voter registration rolls does not facilitate good government. It elevates the opportunity for voter fraud, makes it more difficult for the democratic process to work, hampers political groups in their efforts to send targeted mailings and pursue get-out-the-vote efforts. NH should be very glad Bill Gardner was retained as Secretary of State instead of the party loyalist who ran against him. Election integrity is foundational to good government. It needs to be taken seriously, not played with or ignored.