A conservative watchdog group is suing the Kentucky Secretary of State and State Board of Elections claiming a failure to maintain accurate voter registration lists.
Judicial Watch filed the suit in a federal district court this week alleging that 48 counties have more registered voters than the number of age-eligible citizens.
The group said it analyzed registration data in a 2017 Election Assistance Commission Report compared to “the most recent census data” and found Kentucky’s rates are “sky high” and violate the National Voter Registration Act. In letters included in the filing, Judicial Watch cites U.S. Census Bureau American Community Surveys, an annual mandatory survey sent to a small percentage of the population on a rotating basis.
In a release, Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton warned ‘dirty election rolls’ could mean “dirty elections” and said the suit wants to ensure citizens have confidence elections won't be subject to fraud.
The lawsuit asks the court to require the commonwealth to implement a program to remove ‘ineligible registrants’ and to turn over numerous related documents, including - according to a letter in the filing - the voter registration database from the counties with discrepancies including names, birth dates, home addresses, voter activity and whether the voter is considered ‘active’ or ‘inactive.’
In a letter response included in the filing, State Board of Elections Executive Director Maryellen Allen objected to Judicial Watch's requests for voter information and other documents, noting that much of the requested information is “confidential and proprietary” or prohibited from disclosure by state or federal law.
Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes’ office said the lawsuit is “without merit.” Her office said Kentucky maintains voter roles in accordance with all federal and state statutes.
The NRVA requires states to make “a reasonable effort to remove ineligible persons from the voter rolls by reason of the person’s death, or a change in the residence of the registrant outside of the jurisdiction.” States can also remove the name of a person at the request of the registrant, but cannot remove someone’s name due to a failure to vote.
NRVA does not require a process for removing disqualified people due to criminal conviction or mental incapacity. There is also not a required process for removing people who have died. Voter roll processes for deaths, criminal convictions and mental incapacity are generally up to state law, according to the NRVA web site.
Judicial Watch acknowledges the NRVA requirements in the suit, but contends the state is not adequately maintaining the rolls. They say some counties have rolls surpassing 100% of eligible voters, for instance 101% in McCracken County and 109% in Menifee County.
Kentucky Secretary of State Director of Communications Bradford Queen says since 2011, more than 350,000 voters have been legally removed from Kentucky’s voter rolls.
Grimes’ office wrote: “Under Secretary Grimes' leadership, Kentucky has and will continue to maintain its voter rolls in accordance with all federal and state statutes, including the National Voter Registration Act and the Help America Vote Act. We are confident the facts will prove Kentucky is following the law and doing its due diligence to protect voters' rights and franchise.”
Her office said Judicial Watch wants to “make it harder for people to vote” and that Kentucky and the State Board of Elections won’t “bow to their efforts.” And added, “Judicial Watch is a right-wing organization masquerading as a citizen advocacy group, and most of its lawsuits have been dismissed.”
According to the Kentucky State Board of Elections, voter turnout in each county in the 2016 election averaged 59%. No counties had more votes than individuals and the turnout was generally close to the state average across all 120 counties.
Similar to this suit, Grimes has been outspoken about not sending voter information to President Donald Trump’s election commission, calling it “at best a waste of taxpayer money and at worst an attempt to legitimize voter suppression efforts across the country.” Trump formed the commission to investigate voter fraud, which he has claimed was widespread, despite evidence to the contrary.
Kentucky is one of 11 states Judicial Watch sent notice-of-violation letters to this year threatening to sue over ‘excessive’ voter roles.
The suit was filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky, Central Division.