A public interest law firm sued the City of Detroit Wednesday for failing to clean dead and duplicate registrants from its voter rolls.
The Public Interest Legal Foundation’s (PILF) complaint was filed last week in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. According to the lawsuit, the City of Detroit’s “voter rolls contain thousands of ineligible deceased registrants, some who have been dead for extraordinary amounts of time.”
The lawsuit claims that the city does not have “a reasonable list maintenance program to detect and remove deceased registrants from the rolls.”
The complaint says that 2,503 dead registrants appear on the city’s voter rolls while another 4,788 voters appear more than once. Additionally, the lawsuit says that Detroit has 511,768 registered voters in a city with only 479,267 eligible adults.
“Based on this data, Detroit has more registered voters than adult citizens of voting age,” states the lawsuit.
Another 16,465 registered voters were missing a registration date. The Public Interest Legal Foundation said in a press release that it has “studied the city’s voter list maintenance efforts since 2017 by a variety of means.”
“Earlier this year, PILF acquired the statewide qualified voter file from the Michigan Secretary of State for the purpose of comparing registration lists against federal death records,” the press release explains. “The Foundation ultimately sampled all active registrants whose respective ages were 85 years or older, finding more than 2,500 within the age range who were listed in the Social Security Death Index with corresponding death records and/or obituaries.”
The law firm “studied and cataloged examples of single registrants who managed to become registered to vote two and even three times” and “flagged impossibly old” registrants on the voter rolls. One registrant, for instance, was born in 1823, making that voter nearly 200 years old.
“The City of Detroit is failing to perform some of the most basic functions owed to its citizenry,” PILF President and General Counsel J. Christian Adams said. “The city government’s nonchalant attitude toward addressing evidence of dead and duplicate registrations exposes yet another vulnerability in our voting systems as our nation works to improve election security before November 2020. Making a federal case out of this was necessary, and I hope we can achieve a resolution before the polls open.”
Michigan Republican Party Chairwoman Laura Cox said Detroit Clerk Janice Winfrey, who is responsible for managing the voter rolls, has a “record of failure.”
“When thousands of dead people are registered to vote and there are more people registered than are eligible to vote in the city of Detroit either someone is trying to commit fraud or there is gross incompetence within the Detroit city clerk’s office,” Cox said in a statement. “Either way Janice Winfrey has shown she is unable to do her job as Detroit City Clerk. It’s time for Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson to replace her partisan friend on the Election Modernization Advisory Committee with someone who knows how to run a modern election operation.”
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of Battleground State News, The Ohio Star, and The Minnesota Sun. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Detroit Streets” by Ken Lund CC2.0.