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New Lawsuit Alleges State of California Violated National Voter Registration Act

Mark Meuser and Harmeet Dhillon (press conference, Facebook)

California failing to verify citizenship before placing voters on the voter rolls

California is violating federal law by failing to verify citizenship before placing voters on the voter rolls, according to attorneys Harmeet Dhillon and Mark Meuser. They say this compromises the integrity of our election system.

Calling this “Judicial Watch 2.0,” Dhillon and Meuser filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Plaintiffs Roxanne Beckford Hoge, Ali Mazarei, and Corrin Rankin against Alex Padilla, California Secretary of State, and Steve Gordon, Director of California Department of Motor Vehicles for violations of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993.

The lawsuit alleges that the state is neglecting two of its duties three duties as outlined by the voter act. Judicial Watch already filed a federal lawsuit against Los Angeles County and the State of California over their failure to clean their voter rolls and to produce election-related records as required by the federal National Voter Registration Act. “Eleven of California’s 58 counties have registration rates exceeding 100% of the age-eligible citizenry,” Judicial Watch said. “California has the highest rate of inactive registrations of any state in the country. Los Angeles County has the highest number of inactive registrations of any single county in the country.”

“The National Voter Registration Act says three things,” attorney Mark Meuser said in an interview. “Number 1, is that the state shall determine eligibility. Eligibility and citizenship go hand in hand,” Meuser said. “All they are doing is looking at state records for felons or duplicate registrations.”

Breaking News:Harmeet Dhillon and I announce that today we filed a lawsuit against the State of California for violating Federal Law by failing to ensure that only citizens are placed on the voter rolls. The fight for fair elections just took a huge step forward.

Posted by Mark Meuser on Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Meuser said the United States Supreme Court says state records can be used for citizenship verification. But California is picking and choosing which records to use, rather than using all three qualifying issues.

“Number two is to notify the voter(s) of the determination,” Meuser said. “The NVRA requires Padilla to guarantee that only eligible citizens are registered to vote. Since citizenship is at the core of voter eligibility, Padilla is violating the NVRA by omitting a citizenship verification as a part of the eligibility verification process.”

The National Voter Registration Act specifically says:

The Act deems as timely those valid voter registration applications by eligible applicants submitted to designated state and local officials, or postmarked if submitted by mail, at least 30 days before a federal election. The Act also requires notification of all applicants of whether their voter registration applications were accepted or rejected. The Act requires States to keep voter registration lists accurate and current, such as identifying persons who have become ineligible due to having died or moved outside the jurisdiction. At the same time, the Act requires list maintenance programs to incorporate specific safeguards, e.g., that they be uniform, non-discriminatory, in compliance with the Voting Rights Act, and not be undertaken within 90 days of a federal election.

A 2018 state audit found the California DMV’s “motor voter” program only recently implemented, was riddled with technical problems that led to hundreds of thousands of discrepancies in voter registrations. Last September, the DMV sent out 23,000 “erroneous” voter registrations they blamed on “technical errors,” Last September, the DMV sent out 23,000 “erroneous” voter registrations they blamed on ‘technical errors,’” California Globe reported. “Padilla proclaimed himself ‘extremely disappointed and deeply frustrated,'” but nothing changed.

The lawsuit alleges that SOS Padilla has “forsaken his duty to ensure that non-citizens” are kept off voter rolls.

“In direct violation of his duties to ensure that only eligible voters are placed on the voter rolls, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla has established a pattern and practice of doing nothing to verify that a potential voter is a United States citizen, thus causing non-citizens to be placed on the voter rolls,” the lawsuit says.

“The Secretary of State has forsaken his duty to ensure that non-citizens are never placed on the voter rolls, and has relegated his office to that of a glorified clerk simply transmitting the data from the voter registration application to the counties for data entry purposes,” the lawsuit alleges.

Meuser said two of the plaintiffs – Roxanne Hoge and Ali Mazarei – are immigrants who earned their citizenship, and are passionate about ensuring the integrity of the voting rolls to ensure that only citizens are registered to vote.

The attorneys sent SOS Padilla a Notice of Violations Letter which revealed how Padilla was violating the NVRA by failing to ensure eligibility of voters prior to putting their names on the voter rolls.

The Padilla Notice Letter made four demands:

a. Start receiving from the DMV documentation regarding an individual’s citizenship, so that you may fulfill your NVRA requirements to ensure eligibility prior to placing a registrant on the voter rolls;

b. Begin reviewing all voter registrations and compare the voter registration with databases maintained by the state of California to ensure that all registrants are eligible to vote before you place them on the California voter rolls;

c. Review all current California registered voters to determine eligibility and send notices to all non-citizens who happen to be on the voter rolls; and

d. Update the California NVRA Manual to specifically lay out the responsibilities of the registrar of voters in verifying eligibility with state and county databases to determine eligibility.

Padilla’s response said he does not believe that he is violating the NVRA, and therefore declined to make any changes, the lawsuit says. Yet shortly after the launch of the Motor Voter law, it became clear that some legal non-citizens were placed on the voter rolls. “Padilla had no procedure in place to ensure that an applicant was eligible to vote prior to placing them on the voter rolls.”

The lawsuit also notes a crucial piece of the equation: “The DMV does not transfer to the Secretary of State the citizenship information obtained from the Proof of Identity Documents, although it is required by the NVRA to transfer to the Secretary of State “a completed voter registration portion of an application for a State motor vehicle driver’s license accepted at a State motor vehicle authority.”

Meuser said they would be filing an injunction in the next few weeks. Much more to come…

Katy Grimes

Katy Grimes, the Editor of the California Globe, is a long-time Investigative Journalist covering the California State Capitol, and the co-author of California's War Against Donald Trump: Who Wins? Who Loses?

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