In Daunt v. Benson, Anthony Daunt, a conservative activist and director of the Michigan Freedom Fund, sued the Michigan secretary of state, the director of elections, and sixteen county clerks alleging that these counties have registrations that are too high and therefore must purge their voter rolls more aggressively. On September 14, 2020, the League of Women Voters of Michigan and Local Leagues from Grand Traverse, the Ann Arbor Area, Leelanau County, Copper Country, and the Oakland Area requested permission to intervene as defendants, represented by the Brennan Center, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton, & Garrison LLP, and Butzel Long.
The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA) was enacted to increase voter participation and protect our elections. Under the NVRA, election administrators are required to conduct reasonable voter list maintenance that includes safeguards to ensure eligible voters are not accidentally removed from the rolls. Such safeguards include the requirement that systematic list maintenance not be conducted within 90 days of an election; that list maintenance programs be reasonable, uniform, and nondiscriminatory; and that voters be removed due to suspected change of address only after they are sent a notice that they are going to be removed, fail to respond, and fail to vote in two consecutive federal elections.
Voter list maintenance—when done responsibly—is appropriate and necessary for election administration. But removing voters without adequate protections violates federal law and can lead to disenfranchisement. When voter purges are rushed, based on unreliable data, or done without essential precautions or enough public notice, voters bear the greatest burden – potentially arriving at the polls only to discover they have been removed from the rolls and are unable to cast an ordinary ballot.
On June 9, 2020, Anthony Daunt—backed by the Honest Elections Project (a conservative group fighting to restrict voting access)—initiated a lawsuit against Michigan’s secretary of state, director of elections, and several local county administrators alleging that they have not maintained accurate voter rolls. The lawsuit is consistent with a concerted national effort by activist groups using used exaggerated claims to pressure jurisdictions around the country to use aggressive purge practices.
On September 14, 2020, the League of Women Voters of Michigan and five Local Leagues requested permission to intervene in the case. The League argues that plaintiff seeks to apply an unreasonable standard for voter list maintenance, jurisdictions should not be required to purge voters based on unsubstantiated and unsolicited data provided by third parties, and eligible voters will likely be removed from the rolls if the sixteen defendant counties comply with plaintiff’s request.
On September 28, 2020, the court granted the League of Women Voters of Michigan’s motion to intervene.
On February 16, 2021, Anthony Daunt agreed, in light of Michigan’s ongoing voter list maintenance practices, to voluntarily dismiss his lawsuit compelling the state of Michigan to purge its voter lists more aggressively.