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Public Interest Legal Foundation v. Winfrey

The League of Women Voters of Michigan and League of Women Voters of Detroit intervened as defendants in a lawsuit in which the Public Interest Legal Foundation alleges that the Detroit City Clerk and Director of Elections have not purged voters aggressively enough. On June 29, 2020, PILF voluntarily asked the court to dismiss the case. On June 30, 2020, the parties stipulated to a dismissal of the case with prejudice.

Last Updated: June 30, 2020
Published: February 10, 2020

In Public Interest Legal Found­a­tion v. Winfrey, plaintiff Public Interest Legal Found­a­tion (“PILF”)—a national organ­iz­a­tion based in Indi­ana that has taken numer­ous actions across the coun­try to pres­sure elec­tion admin­is­trat­ors into purging voter­s—al­leges that the city of Detroit is not purging voters they believe should be removed from the rolls. On Febru­ary 10, 2020, the League of Women Voters of Michigan and the League of Women Voters of Detroit, repres­en­ted by the Bren­nan Center and co-coun­sel Paul, Weiss, Rikfind, Whar­ton & Garrison LLP, reques­ted permis­sion to inter­vene as defend­ants. The motion to inter­vene was gran­ted on May 29, 2020. 

Back­ground

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, 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.

PILF has repeatedly used exag­ger­ated claims to pres­sure juris­dic­tions around the coun­try to use aggress­ive purge prac­tices. In this case, PILF alleges the Detroit City Clerk and City Director of Elec­tions have not purged voters aggress­ively enough. The League of Women Voters of Michigan and the League of Women Voters of Detroit reques­ted leave to inter­vene in the case on Febru­ary 10, 2020, and their motion to inter­vene was gran­ted on May 29, 2020. The League argues that PILF 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 Detroit complies with PILF’s request.

On June 29, 2020, PILF volun­tar­ily asked the court to dismiss the case. On June 30, 2020, the parties stip­u­lated to a dismissal of the case with preju­dice.

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