Integrity Watchdog Finds 248 Counties with More Voters Than People

The Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF) threatened Monday to hit local officials from 248 counties across 24 states with lawsuits if they do not address the underlying issues that led each county to maintain voter rolls with a higher number of registered voters than the number of adults currently residing in those counties.

After analyzing 2016 election data records, PILF found that nine of the 24 states harbored more than 10 counties that reported a number of registered voters that exceeded the county’s adults aged 18 and over. Kentucky proved to be the highest offender with 41 counties while Michigan and Iowa followed with 32 and 31 counties, respectively. Illinois clocked in at 22 while Mississippi had 19 and Colorado had 17. Texas, Alabama and South Dakota all had 12.

"During the 2016 election, 24 states had bloated voter rolls," PILF President and general counsel J. Christian Adams said in a press release Monday. "Voter fraud begins with corrupted voter rolls. Our nation's voter rolls have records that cannot be distinguished between living or dead; citizen or alien; resident or relocated."

"We hear about possible cyberattacks, but we aren't doing enough to fix voter rolls that are certainly corrupt," Adams added. "The voter rolls are so bad in some states that election officials would have a hard time telling the difference between sabotage and negligence."

Most of the counties on PILF's list hovered between 100 percent and 110 percent voter registration, but the gravest offender proved to be Hanson County in South Dakota, with 169 percent voter registration. Loving County in Texas reported 165 percent voter registration, while New York County in New York, McIntosh County in Georgia, and Illinois counties Shelby and Alexander all reported 154 percent.

"What's very important here is we aren't asking the question, 'How many voter registrants are there compared to adult citizens ... or adults that aren't in prison, or adults that do not, are not considered mentally incapacitated — so usually things that would take you away from voting,'" PILF spokesman Logan Churchwell told LifeZette. "We are asking the question, 'How many registered voters are there compared to how many adults 18-plus [are] in that jurisdiction?'"

"And then when you see 120 percent voter registration, you know that you've given the county maximum benefit of the doubt," Churchwell added. "So, we're giving the maximum benefit of the doubt and then they exhaust all of that and then some. And that's why, if you do that, then you get a letter form PILF. And that's where those 248 counties come from."

"Just about anything that can go wrong with a voter file can go wrong. And the counties that make this list managed to have all those things going wrong at the same time," Churchwell added.

PILF's notice informs offending county officials that "federal law requires election officials to conduct a reasonable effort to maintain voter registration lists free of dead voters, ineligible voters, and voters who have moved away."

"Based on our comparison of publicly available information published by the U.S. Census Bureau and the federal Election Assistance Commission, it appears that your jurisdiction is failing to comply with these federal law requirements," the notice continues.

Even if a county broke entirely even with 100 percent voter registration for each adult aged 18 and over in 2016, Churchwell said that PILF would take action.

"Have we found a unicorn here and nobody dies and no one moves? Or are the county officers not staying on top of their jobs?" Churchwell said. "And for those that we determine are just are not staying on top of their jobs, we file a lawsuit on them."

Officials slapped with PILF's notice are told that they could be violating the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) and are requested to provide several documents that concern noncitizen voters, the numbers of deceased voters and duplicated voters, voters who relocated, and felons whose names should have been denied voting eligibility. If the officials who received the notices fail to comply with these requests, PILF said that they risk suffering a federal lawsuit.

PILF takes analyzing voter roll integrity so seriously "because it gives us a very quick sense of which jurisdictions are clearly broken," Churchwell said.

"And then we know where to go find the broken parts and decide do we need to have conversations with the county?" Churchwell said. "Do we need to work with the legislature to pass a law to make things more efficient? Or do we need to file a lawsuit because someone is just grossly negligent? You know, we need a federal judge to straighten things out."

The importance of combating and preventing voter fraud, along with protecting the integrity of U.S. elections, received renewed emphasis under President Donald Trump's administration with the creation of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity.

Some states make monitoring and maintaining election integrity more complicated by not enacting voter identification laws. A total of 33 states currently enforce or say they are enforcing the various voter ID requirements they specifically request.

"If a state requires an ID to vote, it's not that concerning. You can't prove you're someone who doesn't exist without going to a lot of trouble and a lot of risk," Eddie Zipperer, an assistant professor of political science at Georgia Military College, told LifeZette in an email. "If a state does not require an ID to vote, it is an invitation to commit voter fraud."

Noting that "some states don't even make people sign an affidavit swearing they are who they claim to be and that they are eligible to vote," Zipperer said committing voter fraud "poses minimal risk and is easy to do."

"Those states have absolutely no business being out of compliance with federal election laws," Zipperer added.

Churchwell emphasized that PILF's underlying concern with analyzing voter registration data is "figuring out for these counties that have been receiving letters from us and that we've been talking to for years, what is it that is broken that makes us keep having to come back to these counties and keep trying to figure out what is going wrong, in addition to what went wrong recently in some of these new counties that we never had to communicate with. What changed?"

American citizens should care about voter roll integrity because "if you live in one of these jurisdictions, your voter record is not being must likely properly maintained," Churchwell said.

"And if something catastrophic were to happen, be it a Russian hacker or some electoral chicanery where people are creating fake names for voter registration drives like we saw in Georgia last year, and in some other places, then the odds of the county being able to thwart that action is ... minimized but after the fact they're not going to be very capable of putting the pieces back together," Churchwell said.

The issue is ongoing, Churchwell said, pointing to the city of Philadelphia. Just last week, Philadelphia election officials admitted that a system glitch allowed hundreds of noncitizens to vote over the past decade.

"What we even saw last week in the city of Philadelphia, hundreds of people registered to vote that turned out to be noncitizens in the rolls," Churchwell said. "So, we're starting to see cases where people are outing themselves. Generally it's because they're trying to become citizens and they have to tie off that loose end and clean up that voter record. And maybe they get prosecuted, most likely they are not."

As the U.S. continues to field concerns about foreign countries' capabilities of interfering in U.S. elections, Churchwell said that "the greatest question we have to ask here is would we be able to pick up the pieces and determine what record was fine to begin with, which one was out of date, and which one was fake?"

"And in 248 of these counties, they wouldn't be able to answer that question from where we're standing," Churchwell concluded.

Last Modified: November 22, 2017, 12:28 pm

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