Skip Navigation
Press Release

Public Interest Legal Foundation Drops Meritless Voter Purge Lawsuit Against Detroit

The group claimed the city was not purging voters aggressively enough. But when pressed for evidence, they withdrew.

June 30, 2020

For Imme­di­ate Release: June 30, 2020

Contact: Julian Brookes, brookes­j@bren­nan.law.nyu.edu, 646–673–6224

DETROIT—The Public Interest Legal Found­a­tion, a group that has repeatedly sued elec­tion offi­cials for not purging voters aggress­ively enough, today asked a judge to dismiss its own lawsuit against the City of Detroit.

PILF had sought to compel the city to under­take unwar­ran­ted voter purges based on ques­tion­able and unsub­stan­ti­ated data. But after the League of Women Voters of Michigan and the League of Women Voters of Detroit inter­vened and pressed PILF to produce evid­ence to support its claims, PILF dropped its lawsuit.

“This is a victory for the voters of Michigan,” said Christina Schlitt, pres­id­ent of the League of Women Voters of Michigan, which joined the case on the city’s side in May. “The League of Women Voters has worked hard to register and educate eligible voters in the state, and PILF was trying to undo that work. The League stepped in to push back against PILF’s bully­ing tactics, and we won.”

The Indi­ana-based PILF has brought multiple purge suits against cities and counties across the coun­try. Indeed, the court recog­nized that “the same plaintiff has initi­ated or is in the process of initi­at­ing multiple lawsuits in vari­ous courts around the state rais­ing essen­tially identical claims attempt­ing to coerce muni­cip­al­it­ies to purge their voter rolls.” 

But when it came time to offer proof, PILF with­drew.

“From the start, we’ve said this lawsuit is without merit,” said Eliza Sweren-Becker, coun­sel in the Bren­nan Center’s Voting Rights and Elec­tions Program. “When pressed for evid­ence to support their alleg­a­tions, PILF with­drew its case rather than try to prove it. It’s shame­ful that PILF made the City of Detroit spend time and money to defend against a case that should never have been brought in the first place.”

“If PILF had succeeded in this suit, voters could have been disen­fran­chised,” said Rhonda Craig, pres­id­ent of the Detroit League of Women Voters, which also joined the suit in May. “We weren’t going to let that happen.”

Federal law protects voters against unreas­on­able purge prac­tices.  Yet, PILF was using the legal system to try and demand that elec­tion admin­is­trat­ors conduct voter purges based on unsub­stan­ti­ated and unso­li­cited data presen­ted by third parties.  The League argued the purge prac­tices sought by PILF threatened the voting rights of Detroit citizens and the integ­rity of elec­tion admin­is­tra­tion statewide.

The League was repres­en­ted in this case by the Bren­nan Center for Justice; Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Whar­ton & Garrison LLP; and Butzel Long.

Case back­ground is here.