A national group seeking to purge voters in two of North Carolina’s largest counties, each with significant populations of voters of color, has abandoned its baseless claims as part of a settlement agreement approved March 7, 2022, by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina.
“In its suit against the State Board of Elections, Judicial Watch failed to show any evidence that ineligible voters were able to cast ballots and were unsuccessful in their attempts to change North Carolina’s voter roll maintenance process or require removal of voters from the voter rolls as a result,” said Hilary Harris Klein, Senior Counsel for Voting Rights at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, which is representing intervenors League of Women Voters of North Carolina (LWVNC) and North Carolina A. Philip Randolph Institute (NC APRI).
Judicial Watch failed to show any evidence that ineligible voters were able to cast ballots.Hilary Harris Klein, Southern Coalition for Social Justice
SCSJ and Dēmos filed a motion to intervene in the case on behalf of LWVNC and NCAPRI to ensure counties, which often do not have the resources to defend these type of suits, were not forced to settle under terms that would harm voters, especially voters of color who already are disproportionately impacted by unnecessarily aggressive list maintenance practices, which create barriers to voters staying registered with no tangible benefits to election integrity.
Judicial Watch, which is funded primarily by large grants from conservative foundations, relied on misleading voter registration data in their case and, if successful, would have compelled under-resourced county boards of elections to remove eligible voters in violation of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA).
In August 2021, a federal magistrate judge recommended dismissing Judicial Watch’s claims, rejecting the group’s arguments that high voter registration rates alone prove an NVRA violation, and noting the report they relied upon specifically advised its data “be used with caution.” The recommended order also warned against drawing conclusions about NVRA compliance based on registration rates “because of the long time period involved in removing ineligible voting records required by the NVRA.”
Notably, when dismissing the case following the settlement, the District Court denied Judicial Watch’s request to vacate the magistrate’s recommended order.
“LWVNC was proud to intervene in this litigation because of the false information that was being reported,” said LWVNC President Jo Nicholas. “The main purpose of our organization is to make sure every North Carolinian has a free and safe voting process. We are proud of our leagues continuing to hold events where people can register safely in their communities. We remain committed to the fight against voter suppression for everyone.”
Melvin Montford, head of NCAPRI, applauded the court for approving the settlement and seeing through Judicial Watch’s efforts to target voters of color on the North Carolina voter rolls.
“Groups like Judicial Watch seek to challenge the integrity of elections and use inaccurate data to create barriers to voting access for communities of color,” Monford said. “We’re heartened that the court rejected their unsubstantiated allegations, and are honored to defend the voting rights for the very North Carolinians who disproportionately bear the brunt of these types of attacks.”
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The Southern Coalition for Social Justice, founded in 2007, partners with communities of color and economically disadvantaged communities in the South to defend and advance their political, social, and economic rights through the combination of legal advocacy, research, organizing, and communications. Learn more at southerncoalition.org and follow our work on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.