Judicial Watch Signs Settlement Agreement with L.A. County to Remove Inactive Voters

Checking the Voter Rolls
Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Judicial Watch won a significant victory for election integrity last week when it signed a settlement agreement with the State of California and Los Angeles County that could potentially remove as many as 1.5 million voters–all of whom are listed as inactive but still registered as of April 27,2018–from the rolls in Los Angeles County.

According to the Los Angeles Registrar-Recorder County Clerk’s website, there were 5.2 million registered voters in the county eligible to vote in the November 2018 general election, of which 3.7 million, or 71 percent, were classified as active and 1.5 million, or 29 percent, were classified as inactive but still registered and eligible to vote.

A total of 2.9 million votes, or about 57 percent of all registered voters, were cast in the highest turnout race on the ballot in the November 2018 general election, the gubernatorial contest between Gavin Newsom and John Cox.

More than three million ballots were distributed to registered voters–1,673,104 were distributed at the ballot box at official polling locations, while 1,350,313 were distributed as vote-by-mail.

Los Angeles County and the State of California “will begin the process of removing from their voter registration rolls as many as 1.5 million inactive registered names that may be invalid,” Judicial Watch said in its statement announcing the settlement agreement.

The settlement agreement was filed with U.S. District Court Judge Manuel L. Real in the Central District of California, Western Division.

“This settlement vindicates Judicial Watch’s groundbreaking lawsuits to clean up state voter rolls to help ensure cleaner elections,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in the statement.

“Judicial Watch and its clients are thrilled with this historic settlement that will clean up election rolls in Los Angeles County and California – and set a nationwide precedent to ensure that states take reasonable steps to ensure that dead and other ineligible voters are removed from the rolls,” Fitton added.

You can watch Fitton’s comments here:

The Washington Times reported on the differing public reactions to the settlement agreement from the plaintiffs and defendants:

“This is a major NVRA victory — probably the biggest in the history,” said Robert Popper, the Judicial Watch lawyer who fought the case.

He said he expects most of the more than 1.5 million names on the county’s inactive voter list will end up being removed.

Mr. Padilla, the secretary of state, disputed Judicial Watch’s claims, saying he didn’t agree to specifically kick anyone off the rolls.

“The settlement is clear and simple, California will continue its work to adhere to modern list maintenance procedures under the NVRA,” he said in a statement. “This settlement will not lead to unnecessary removal of active and eligible voters. Safeguards remain in place to ensure voter list maintenance procedures are followed before canceling any voter registration records.”

Judicial Watch, along with co-plaintiff the Election Integrity Project of California, filed a lawsuit in federal court back in 2017 (Judicial Watch Inc., v. Dean C. Logan) on behalf of several lawfully registered voters in Los Angeles County, which alleged that both the State of California and Los Angeles County have failed to comply with the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), which was passed in 1993.

The Judicial Watch complaint noted that “The NVRA provides that the registration of a voter who is believed to have moved out of a jurisdiction is only subject to removal from the voter rolls if (1) the voter confirms this move in writing, or (2) the voter fails to respond to an address confirmation notice, and then fails to vote during a statutory waiting period extending from the date of the notice through the next two general federal elections.”

“Under both the NVRA and California law, voters whose registrations are designated as “inactive” may still vote on election day. . . Because voters with inactive registrations may still vote on election day, inactive registrations must be counted as part of a county’s voter registration list,” the complaint continued.

The complaint asserted that the  defendants, Los Angeles County and the State of California, were violating the NVRA in a number of ways:

  • By refusing to cancel old, inactive registrations
  • By failing to send enough address confirmation notices
  • In a number of ways identified by the Los Angeles County Controller-Auditor

In its statement, Judicial Watch noted the lawsuit alleged several key facts, which included, the following:

  • Los Angeles County has more voter registrations on its voter rolls than it has citizens who are old enough to register.  Specifically, according to data provided to and published by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, Los Angeles County has a registration rate of 112 percent of its adult citizen population.
  • The entire State of California has a registration rate of about 101 percent of its age-eligible citizenry.
  • Eleven of California’s 58 counties have registration rates exceeding 100 percent of the age-eligible citizenry.

In the settlement agreemen, both Los Angeles County and the State of California conceded they had been violating the NVRA, especially in light of the 2018 Supreme Court decision, Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Inst.

The Judicial Watch statement noted that, “Judicial Watch Attorney Robert Popper is the director of the organization’s Election Integrity Project and led the Judicial Watch legal team in this litigation. Judicial Watch was assisted in this case by Charles H. Bell of Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk, LLP.”


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