Written by Carol Allen
Edited by Frank Anderson
- Right wing front group is challenging voter rolls in multiple states
- Fairfax County is a subject of the group’s inquiry
- Cities of Alexandria and Philadelphia have already been sued for allegedly not maintaining their voter rolls
Right-wing organizations continue to charge that “rampant” voter fraud is taking place. Actual evidence of any substantial voter fraud remains to be seen. The latest challenge in Fairfax County is a letter of January 14, 2016 from one such organization, the Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF), to the Office of Elections stating notice that the county is in apparent violation of the National Voter Registration Act by failing to maintain accurate voter lists. No litigation pursuant to notice under the Act has been filed by PILF to date against Fairfax County, but a lawsuit was recently filed in the City of Alexandria against its General Registrar.
Since these claims of fraud have been made, no incidents of significant fraud have been established, only vague and speculative claims have been repetitively made. The ultimate goal of PILF and its associates is to exclude voters not likely to vote Republican. In the name of election integrity PILF supports unnecessary restrictions that discourage or disenfranchise voters.
Claims of voter fraud across America have been raised by PILF, an organization that says it is a nonpartisan law firm which informs the public about efforts to damage the integrity of the election process and conducting litigation affecting elections.
PILF has little interest in actually protecting or promoting voters’ rights. Under the pretense of their self-described status as a nonpartisan group, PILF and its officers are associated exclusively with the Republican Party and its supporters and causes, including True the Vote (who PILF serves as legal counsel) the Heritage Foundation, Judicial Watch, The American Civil Rights Union (right-wing version of the ACLU) and the Koch brothers. Officers and Directors of PILF serve as directors, or as other affiliates, on the boards of many of these and other right wing organizations claiming voter fraud in various forms.
Three of PILF’s Officers and Directors have been prominently involved in election and voter law cases. PILF’s President, J. Christian Adams of Alexandria, cites his successful litigation on behalf of a “discriminated-against white minority” in Mississippi. Another of the Directors of PILF, Hans von Spakovsky, has devoted his career to combating supposed voter fraud and pushing for voter ID. His activities in the Justice Department served to block enforcement of the Voter Rights Act. He was turned down for reappointment to a position on the Federal Election Commission. He is a past member of the Fairfax County Board of Elections and was denied reappointment to that body after local Democrats raised concerns about his actions to remove voter registration materials and his refusal to address issues with regard to access to voters at the polls. Three of the other PILF principals with fiduciary duties are identified as having former positions with the Bopp Law Firm. James Bopp is a self-styled American conservative attorney specializing in election law, and represented Citizens United in the Supreme Court decision to allow unlimited campaign financing.
PILF’S REQUEST FOR INFORMATION
By letter of January 14, 2016, PILF asserts that Fairfax County has not maintained the voter registration lists in compliance with Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act. PILF claims that Fairfax County has “nearly more [sic] voters on the registration than it has eligible voters” resulting in a “possible disenfranchisement of legally eligible voters” by ballot dilution threatening legally eligible voters and tainting the integrity of the election process.
PILF has requested access to Fairfax County’s voter rolls and wants names of County staff members who work on voter databases. PILF‘s claims of fraud are vague and its request for information is overly broad and burdensome. Parts of the request may cover personal information.
In 2012 the 4th Circuit ruled in Project Vote v. Long that documents relating to voter registration maintenance are subject to public disclosure. In April 2013 the State Board of Elections issued guidelines to election officials relating to access to voter registration documents.
PILF‘s letter falls into the pattern of misleading the public and intimidating election officials, adversely impacting voter registration and indirectly suppressing the vote. Any time that large portions of the voter rolls are challenged, it is inevitable that such a challenge is unjustified for a portion of those voters. If a county or city purges its voter rolls in a way recommended by an organization such as PILF, it’s possible that hundreds or thousands of legitimate voter registrations could be cancelled.
Offices of Election that are already short-staffed are spending unnecessary hours responding to lawsuits or threats from third party organizations, instead of responding to the needs of the voters.
When the public hears about more and more challenges and about supposed crackdowns on voter rolls, it can work to suppress the vote. Citizens who are legitimately registered, but who have experienced hardships or struggles that affect their relationship with government generally, could be discouraged from voting. Imagine if you are someone who owes fines to the county or state, has a non-felony criminal record, or are not in compliance with some regulation. If you found out that a third party organization has accessed your voter record and is issuing challenges, you may be intimidated from participating. You can imagine which demographic groups would be the hardest hit by these activities.