RNC, Nevada GOP lawsuit claims voter roll inconsistencies in Nevada

By Jessica Hill Las Vegas Review-Journal

March 18, 2024 – 1:04 pm

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State and national Republican organizations filed a lawsuit against Nevada Secretary of State Cisco Aguilar and other election officials on Monday, alleging inconsistencies in the state’s voter rolls.

The Republican National Committee and the Nevada Republican Party assert in the complaint filed in U.S. District Court that Aguilar and several county clerks and registrars — including Clark County Registrar of Voters Lorena Portillo — have failed to maintain accurate voter rolls and is not complying with the National Voter Registration Act.

“Election integrity starts with clean voter rolls, and that’s why the National Voter Registration Act requires state officials to keep their rolls accurate and up-to-date,” RNC Chairman Michael Whatley said in a statement. “Securing clean voter rolls in Nevada is a critical step towards ensuring that it will be easy to vote and hard to cheat.”

The lawsuit makes similar accusations that the RNC made in a December letter to Aguilar, alleging three Nevada counties — Douglas, Lyon and Storey — have more registered voters than adult citizens over 18, and that five other counties — Carson City, Churchill, Clark, Eureka and Washoe — have what it called “suspiciously high rates” of registered voters. At that time, the committee demanded the secretary of state respond within 45 days and correct the alleged violations within 90 days, or else it would proceed with legal action.

In its January response, the state rebuffed those claims, arguing that the data RNC was using to determine the validity of the state’s voter registration records was like “comparing apples to orangutans,” and that the RNC’s analysis was made using incomparable data.

The attorney general’s office, representing the secretary of state, argued there is no dataset that would adequately determine whether registration rates and the eligible voting population are mismatched. It also highlighted the procedures the state goes through to ensure the voter rolls are properly maintained, such as working with the Nevada Registrar of Vital Statistics every day to update counties every time a voter is identified as deceased.

The Nevada secretary of state’s office referred the Las Vegas Review-Journal to its response letter when reached for comment on Monday.

Lawsuit details

The Nevada Republican Party — whose leaders have long cast doubt on Nevada’s election’s processes and are some of the so-called “fake electors” who submitted false electoral documents declaring Donald Trump the winner of the Silver State — touted evidence of past election fraud in Nevada’s elections, pointing to the cases of Donald Kirk Hartle, convicted of voting for his dead wife in2020, and Craig Frank, convicted of voting in two states in the 2016 election.

The lawsuit said the RNC and its members worry that what they see as the state’s failure to maintain voter rolls “undermines the integrity of elections by increasing the opportunity for ineligible voters or voters intent on fraud to cast ballots.”

“Nevada’s impossibly high registration rates, large rates of inactive registered voters, low numbers of removals, and inconsistent enforcement across counties indicate an ongoing, systemic problem with its voter-list maintenance efforts,” the lawsuit says.

Republican voter Scott Johnston was also named as a plaintiff in the lawsuit, which claims that ineligible voters “can and do vote in Nevada’s elections,” and that those illegitimate votes “will dilute” Johnston’s vote, the complaint says. Inaccurate voter rolls also undermine Johnston’s confidence in the integrity of Nevada’s elections, the lawsuit purports.

The national committee uses states’ voter registration lists to develop plans and budgets, and the lists help the RNC estimate the number of staff it needs in a given area, the number of volunteers needed to contact voters, etc. If voter registration lists are not up-to-date, the RNC might misallocate its resources on door-knocking, mailers and other outreach efforts, the lawsuit argues.

Maintaining accurate voter rolls is especially important given Nevada’s automatic mail-ballot system that automatically sends a mail ballot to a voter unless they opt out, the lawsuit says.

“Mailing ballots based on inaccurate registration lists further damages the integrity of Nevada’s elections,” the lawsuit says.

‘Time and resources’

Nevada GOP and the RNC asked the court to find the secretary of state and the other plaintiffs in violation of the National Voter Registration Act and to issue an injunction barring them from violating the act. It also asks the court to order the defendants to develop and implement effective registration list-maintenance programs to ensure that ineligible registrants are not on the voter rolls and to pay for the plaintiff’s expenses relating to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit said the plaintiffs have spent a lot of “time and resources investigating Defendants’ failure to comply with their list-maintenance obligations.”

Nevada’s election administration has come under a microscope in the last few months, especially after glitches caused by a reported coding error fueled distrust among Nevadans, some of whom have believed the repeatedly disproved claims of election fraud since the 2020 election. Aguilar had apologized for those errors occurring, and reiterated the security of Nevada’s elections.

Michael McDonald, chairman of the Nevada Republican Party who has promoted unsubstantiated claims that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump, told the Review-Journal that every vote must count, whether its a Republican, Democrat, Independent or Libertarian.

“The only way that happens is with clean voter rolls,” he said. “This is not a partisan issue. This is about all Nevadans having their voices heard.”

Contact Jessica Hill at jehill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @jess_hillyeah on X.

The Republican National Committee sues Michigan over the state’s voter rolls

The move claiming that Michigan’s voter rolls are inflated comes as Trump allies have moved into leadership positions at the RNC ahead.

March 13, 2024, 5:39 PM CDT

By Jane C. Timm

The Republican National Committee sued Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, on Wednesday in an attempt to force election officials to trim down the state’s voter rolls.

The lawsuit, which was filed in federal court, argues that Michigan is violating the National Voter Registration Act’s requirement to maintain clean and accurate vote registration rolls.

The move comes just days after Trump allies effectively took over the RNC’s leadership ahead of the 2024 election.

“At least 53 Michigan counties have more active registered voters than they have adult citizens who are over the age of 18. That number of voters is impossibly high,” the lawsuit said. “An additional 23 counties have active-voter registration rates that exceed 90 percent of adult citizens over the age of 18. That figure far eclipses the national and statewide voter registration rate in recent elections.”

America’s voter roll system is built for registration, not removal. The rolls often include outdated registration as most voters do not remove themselves from the system when they move.

And while federal law requires officials take steps to keep the rolls up-to-date, it also protects voters from overzealous purges by requiring that officials wait years to remove a voter who has simply stopped casting a ballot.

Still, there’s no evidence that bloated voter rolls lead to voter fraud, even as Republicans increasingly seize on the rolls as a focus of their election activism.

Benson told NBC News in a statement that election officials in the state have “done more in the last five years than was done in the previous two decades to remove deceased voters and ineligible citizens from our voting rolls and ensure their accuracy.”

She said more than 700,000 voters have have been removed from the voter rolls since she took office, while another half million will be removed if they do not vote in this year’s general election.

“Let’s call this what it is: a PR campaign masquerading as a meritless lawsuit filled with baseless accusations that seek to diminish people’s faith in the security of our elections. Shame on anyone who abuses the legal process to sow seeds of doubt in our democracy,” Benson added.

Since the 2020 election, some Republican activists have taken to personally challenging the eligibility of thousands of voters and developing a computer program they believe will help them find fraud.

In recent years, conservative activists also seized on a prominent voter roll maintenance program known as ERIC (the Electronic Registration Information Center), a bipartisan, interstate partnership that helps states share data to keep their voter rolls up-to-date. After conspiracy theories about ERIC flourished, nine GOP-lead states left the program, taking their data with them and weakening the coalition’s efficacy.

The RNC suit in Michigan, a key battleground state, suggests voter rolls may become a more central part of the GOP’s election law strategy.

The filing occurred the same day NBC News reported that two election lawyers, Charlie Spies and Christina Bobb, were joining the RNC.

Bobb has been a prominent advocate of the GOP’s baseless claims that the 2020 election was stolen. She will serve as senior counsel for election integrity, while Spies, a longtime lawyer for the GOP, serves as general counsel.

Speaking to conservative activists in 2021, Spies disputed election conspiracy theories and pushed supporters to adopt election changes that would make the system more palatable to Republicans.

“The deal is early voting is not going away,” he said. “We’ve got to take advantage of that, and telling people not to vote early is cutting your nose off to spite your face. It doesn’t work.”

He continued: “We change the system, make us super confident in it,” he said. “Then encourage people to vote using the laws that we have.”

Jane C. Timm

Jane C. Timm is a senior reporter for NBC News.


Trump’s Allies Ramp Up Campaign Targeting Voter Rolls

Trump’s Allies Ramp Up Campaign Targeting Voter Rolls

Calling themselves investigators, activists are using new data tools and disputed legal theories to urge officials to drop voters from the rolls.

A network of right-wing activists and allies of Donald J. Trump is quietly challenging thousands of voter registrations in critical presidential battleground states, an all-but-unnoticed effort that could have an impact in a close or contentious election.

Calling themselves election investigators, the activists have pressed local officials in Michigan, Nevada and Georgia to drop voters from the rolls en masse. They have at times targeted Democratic areas, relying on new data programs and novel legal theories to justify their push.

In one Michigan town, more than 100 voters were removed after an activist lobbied officials, citing an obscure state law from the 1950s. In the Detroit suburb of Waterford, a clerk removed 1,000 people from the rolls in response to a similar request. The ousted voters included an active-duty Air Force officer who was wrongly removed and later reinstated.

The purge in Waterford went unnoticed by state election officials until The New York Times discovered it. The Michigan secretary of state’s office has since told the clerk to reinstate the voters, saying the removals did not follow the process laid out in state and federal law, and issued a warning to the state’s 1,600 clerks.

The Michigan activists are part of an expansive web of grass-roots groups that formed after Mr. Trump’s attempt to overturn his defeat in 2020. The groups have made mass voter challenges a top priority this election year, spurred on by a former Trump lawyer, Cleta Mitchell, and True the Vote, a vote-monitoring group with a long history of spreading misinformation.

Their mission, they say, is to maintain accurate voting records and remove voters who have moved to another jurisdiction. Democrats, they claim, use these “excess registrations” to stuff ballot boxes and steal elections.

The theory has no grounding in factInvestigations into voter fraud have found that it is exceedingly rare and that when it occurs, it is typically isolated or even accidental. Election officials say that there is no reason to think that the systems in place for keeping voter lists up-to-date are failing.

The bigger risk, they note, is disenfranchising voters.

“If you’re challenging 1,000 voters at once, you are not bringing the sophistication required when you are handling someone’s constitutional right,” said Michael Siegrist, the clerk of Canton Township, Mich., and a board member of the Michigan Association of Municipal Clerks.

In an email response to questions, Ms. Mitchell dismissed those concerns.

“The only persons ‘disenfranchised’ by following the law are the illegal voters, whose illegal registrations suppress and dilute the votes of those who are lawfully registered,” she said. “Our primary goal is to see that the laws of the states are followed and enforced by those sworn to administer the elections according to the applicable law.”

It is difficult to know precisely how many voters have been dropped from the rolls as a result of the campaign — and even harder to determine how many were dropped in error. A Times review of challenges in swing states, which included public records, interviews and audio recordings, suggested the activists were rarely as effective at removing voters as they were in Waterford.

But even when they fail, the challenges have consequences. In some states, a challenge alone is enough to limit a voter’s access to a mail ballot, or to require additional documentation at the polls. Privately, activists have said they consider that a victory.

At the same time, right-wing media outlets have promoted the challenges, casting public officials as corrupt and creating fodder that could be used in another round of legal challenges should Mr. Trump lose again.

“It really is aimed at being able to cast doubt on the results after the fact,” said Joanna Lydgate, the chief executive of States United Democracy Center, a nonpartisan organization. “But also, before the election itself, at being able to shape who turns out and how they turn out.”

In Michigan, activists call their project Soles to the Rolls — an apparent play on Souls to the Polls, the get-out-the-vote effort popular in Black churches.


The undertaking pulls from every corner of the election-denial movement. Its parent group is an offshoot of Ms. Mitchell’s national network. A top deputy to Mike Lindell, a leading promoter of election-related conspiracy theories, helped conceive of the data program the activists use to hunt for suspicious voters, according to recordings reviewed by The Times. The state’s Republican Party, which is mired in a leadership dispute, has also endorsed the data program, and the Trump campaign cited its numbers in a misinformation-riddled report released in January.

That program, called Check My Vote, identifies addresses with irregularities, such as missing an apartment number or having an unusually high number of registered voters.

In training sessions, Tim Vetter, a developer of the system, has acknowledged that it turned up large numbers of supposedly questionable voters in dense areas of Detroit and in student housing in Ann Arbor, both overwhelmingly Democratic cities.

Activists can then use the data to assemble lists of voters to challenge. The program also tracks the outcome of the challenge and whether a voter later tries to vote, information that could be shared with election officials or law enforcement, Mr. Vetter has said, according to recordings reviewed by The Times.

“That’s just garbage,” Chris Thomas, an elections consultant for Detroit, said of the analysis. “It’s targeting lower income, immigrants and students.”

Mr. Vetter did not respond to a request for comment. Janine Iyer, who trains activists for the project, described the work as support for public officials. “All we’re doing is asking clerks to follow the law, and we’re just assisting them because we feel it’s important,” Ms. Iyer, a Republican Party official in Livingston County, near both Detroit and Ann Arbor, said in an interview.

Federal law requires clerks to keep voters who may have moved on the rolls for two election cycles, unless they receive notice from the voter. The Times identified four Michigan cities or towns where activists have lobbied officials to follow a faster removal process.

In October, Polly Skolarus, the clerk in Genoa, a small township west of Detroit, received a list of around 120 names and an email from Ms. Iyer suggesting she would be “breaking the law” if she did not begin the removal process outlined in a state law, according to records obtained by Documented, the liberal investigative group, and shared with The Times.

Ms. Skolarus told The Times that she was reluctant to take voters off the rolls in a presidential election year. But records indicate that nearly all of the voters had their registrations canceled, while others were flagged as “challenged” — meaning they would have to give additional information or verify their address before they could vote.

In one webinar, Mr. Vetter said he considered those restrictions progress: “Then you can’t vote until that gets corrected.”

In Waterford, an activist submitted to Kim Markee, the town clerk, the names of more than 1,000 voters they claimed had moved away and were no longer eligible. The names were pulled from the U.S. Postal Service’s mail-forwarding list, a database that includes snowbirds, active-duty military personnel and others still legally eligible to vote at their residence.

Ms. Markee said the town’s lawyer had advised her to follow the statute cited by the activists. She hired extra staff members to contact the voters through certified mailers and removed those who did not respond.

An employee later discovered that one of the dropped voters was serving in the Air Force in Illinois. The voter, who declined to comment, had her registration reinstated.

In January, Michigan’s secretary of state demanded that Ms. Markee reinstate all the voters who had not confirmed that they had moved. In a recent interview, Ms. Markee said she was still in discussions about the matter.

“They found this loophole in the state of Michigan,” she said. “We have to follow the law.”

Georgia has seen by far the most mass challenges — 360,000 voters were challenged in the 2021 Senate runoff elections alone. In 2023, more than 8,600 voters had their registrations challenged in five major counties, according to data obtained by The Times.

In many cases, a single voter brought thousands of challenges.

A federal court in January found that the 2021 challenges, which were largely organized by True the Vote, did not amount to voter suppression. Catherine Engelbrecht, the group’s leader, has said the organization intends to ramp up the campaign ahead of the November election.

To do so, Ms. Engelbrecht has been promoting new software programs. One will “eclipse” the database used by most state officials, she said in a recent online meeting. Another is designed to help citizens file challenges on their own. A review of the program’s code by Wired magazine in November 2022 found that the app “ultimately uses an ineffective and unreliable methodology.”

In an email to The Times, Ms. Engelbrecht said True the Vote supported “voters in their efforts by providing an organized way to review local voter-roll records.” She disputed the findings in Wired, and said the group had added features to its software.

Republicans in the State Senate are moving forward with legislation that would make it easier to challenge a voter’s eligibility. The bill states that the Postal Service’s change of address database — a list often used by election-denial groups — can be used to dispute eligibility.

“Despite no evidence to support their claims,” said Karli Swift, a member of DeKalb County’s board of elections, “we, unfortunately, are preparing for the onslaught of significantly more voter challenges by certain groups attempting to remove voters from the voter roll ahead of the November general election.”

In Nevada, the Pigpen Project has set out to clean the voter rolls. Two longtime conservative activists, Chuck Muth and Dan Burdish, have organized door-to-door canvassing and enlisted landlords to compare voter rolls with their leasing records. More than once, they have escorted landlords to the Clark County registrar’s office so that they can flag registrations of former tenants.

Stephanie Wheatley, a spokeswoman for Clark County, said that the evidence was not enough to remove a voter but that it was “enough for the election department to do research and investigate.”

Ms. Wheatley said the registrar did not know how many investigations or removals had been prompted by the group.

The Pigpen Project, which is coordinating with Ms. Mitchell’s network, uses a platform based on data from VoteRef.com, a database that has been criticized by election officials as unreliable.

Mr. Burdish and Mr. Muth did not respond to requests for comment.

On a video call in November, Mr. Burdish displayed a map of Clark County, home to roughly 70 percent of the state’s voters, that was littered with blue dots supposedly identifying residences with problematic voters, according to a copy of the video obtained by Documented.

In the video, Mr. Burdish said his volunteers would be knocking on those doors and describing themselves as part of a quasi-governmental effort, despite having no connection to Clark County.

The goal, Mr. Burdish said on the call, was “to make sure that they know that we are working with the local registrar of voters and, you know, we’re not, I say, whack jobs.”

Sheelagh McNeill, Kirsten Noyes, Alain Delaquérière and Rachel Shorey contributed research.

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Federal Judge Dismisses Right-Wing Voter Purge Lawsuit in Michigan

Federal Judge Dismisses Right-Wing Voter Purge Lawsuit in Michigan

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A federal judge today tossed out a lawsuit from a right-wing “election integrity group,” the Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF), seeking to gain access to Michigan’s voter roll maintenance records for the purposes of purging allegedly ineligible voters from the state’s list of registrants. 

Back in November 2021, PILF filed a complaint against Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D) alleging that the state does not conduct adequate maintenance of its voter rolls in contravention of the federal National Voter Registration Act (NVRA). 

The organization asserted that in failing to properly maintain the state’s voter lists, Benson impermissibly allowed tens of thousands of deceased voters to remain registered to vote. The group also argued that Benson’s rejection of its request to inspect voter list maintenance records and data constituted an additional NVRA violation.  

In today’s order, Biden-appointed Judge Jane Beckering wrote that “[a]fter conducting more than nine months of discovery into the many facets of Michigan’s program for the removal of deceased registrants, PILF has identified no genuine issue for trial regarding its claim that the program is not reasonable.” 

“The record demonstrates that deceased voters are removed from Michigan’s voter rolls on a regular and ongoing basis,” the order continues. Between 2019 to March 2023, Michigan canceled between 400,000 and 450,000 registrations because voters were deceased.

The court also held that because Benson indisputably provided PILF with all the list maintenance data it requested, the organization’s claim regarding Benson’s failure to produce certain records is moot.  

Similar “election integrity” lawsuits from PILF seeking voter records remain ongoing in other locations including Colorado and Washington D.C

Federal Judge Dismisses Right-Wing Voter Purge Lawsuit in Michigan