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.
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.
- Complaint (PILF)
- Amended Answer (Detroit City Clerk and City Director of Elections)
- League of Women Voters’ Motion to Intervene
- City’s Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings
- PILF’s Opposition to Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings
- City’s Reply Brief ISO Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings
- Order Granting Motion to Intervene
- Stipulation of Dismissal with Prejudice