On May 14, 2018, the Brennan Center and co-counsel Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP requested permission from the Court to intervene on behalf of California Common Cause in a lawsuit accusing California state and the County of Los Angeles of not purging voters aggressively enough from the rolls. In Judicial Watch, Inc. et al v. Dean C. Logan, et al., the plaintiff Judicial Watch — a self-described “conservative” organization based out of Washington, D.C. — made general and sweeping allegations that California and Los Angeles had inflated voter rolls, and that Judicial Watch was not given records that had been requested.
Congress passed the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA)—also known as “motor voter” – in order to simultaneously increase voting opportunities for eligible Americans and ensure the integrity of our elections. The NVRA requires election officials to make reasonable efforts to maintain clean voter rolls, while also establishing safeguards to keep voters from being wrongfully 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.
While responsible voter list maintenance is both appropriate and necessary to the integrity of our elections, removing voters from the rolls without adequate protections can threaten citizens’ fundamental right to vote. When voter purges are rushed, based on unreliable data, or done without necessary precautions or ample notice to the public, it is the voters who bear the greatest burden – potentially showing up to the polls only to discover they have been kicked off the rolls and are unable to cast a ballot.
The Brennan Center, on behalf of California Common Cause, requested to intervene in the case to ensure that California and Los Angeles County elections officials were not directed to engage in the types of error-prone, wide-spread voter purging that can result in the unnecessary and wrongful loss of eligible voters’ right to cast a ballot. On July 12, the district court denied the motion to intervene, a decision that proposed defendant-intervenors appealed. Following a settlement, the District Court dismissed the case on September 5, 2018. On March 20, 2019, the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal as moot and vacated the District Court’s order denying intervention.