States, D.C. are told to clean up voter rolls or be sued; Judicial Watch counters Obama

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Conservative public interest lawyers sent letters Monday giving the District of Columbia, Iowa and Colorado 90 days to prove they are taking steps to delete from their registration lists dead voters and former residents, or else face a lawsuit.

Judicial Watch said the District has more people registered to vote than the Census Bureau says would be eligible, based on age. Counties in Iowa and Colorado face the same situation — an indication, the conservative group said, that those jurisdictions need to clean up their rolls.

The warning letters are the latest effort from conservatives to push back against an Obama administration that has largely ignored worries about voter fraud and chosen instead to focus on ballot access by cracking down on states that enact voter ID rules.

“The administration is refusing to enforce the law, and it’s leading to dirtier and dirtier elections,” said Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch. “If you’re over 100 percent of your list in terms of eligible voting-age population, that’s a pretty easy case to make.”

Local officials said they do their best to balance voter access with clean rolls, and they point to steps they are taking — including new computer technology — to try to meet both goals.

“We are always looking to make sure our voter rolls are as accurate and updated as possible,” said Tamara Robinson, a spokeswoman for the D.C. Board of Elections.

She said the District has a particularly tough time given the young and transient makeup of the city’s population but that the board has “not run across one single case where someone has attempted to vote in D.C. and someplace else.”

An investigation last year by The Washington Times, however, found 13,000 people who appeared to be registered in the city and in neighboring Prince George’s County. They included people whose names showed up as having voted in recent elections in the District, even though they live in Prince George‘s.

Ballot access and integrity

The National Voter Registration Act, commonly known as “motor-voter,” requires states to make it easier to register to vote, but it also pushes jurisdictions to keep their rolls clean.

Those goals sometimes conflict.

Robert Popper, a senior lawyer at Judicial Watch who served in the Justice Department’s voting rights section under President Obama and President George W. Bush, said the current administration has focused on ballot access but slighted the integrity side.

During the last years of Mr. Bush’s tenure, he said, the Justice Department brought five lawsuits seeking to clean up voter rolls. In the six years under Mr. Obama, no such lawsuits have been filed.

The Justice Department didn’t return a message seeking comment.

Myrna Perez, deputy director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s democracy program, said all sides agree that voter rolls should be as clean and accurate as possible.

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