In the midst of a national debate over voter integrity, a federal court decree is ordering a Mississippi county to purge its voter rolls of dead people, ineligible felons and people who have moved out of a voting area.
In April, the American Civil Rights Union, a conservative legal group, sued Walthall County, Miss., for having 124 percent more registered voters than voting-age-eligible residents, based on U.S. Census data. The lawsuit was filed under the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, better known as the Motor Voter law, and is the first privately-brought suit to succeed, according to the ACRU.
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"This case should have been called United States v. Walthall County instead of ACRU v. Walthall County," said J. Christian Adams, a former Justice Department voting section attorney. Adams along with former Justice Department Voting Section chief Christopher Coates and former DOJ attorney Henry Ross filed the lawsuit for the ACRU.
“We're doing the job that Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. won't do. In fact, he's too busy suing Texas for its new photo ID law and abusing power in other ways to harass states that are trying to ensure election integrity,” Adams said in a statement.
Walthall County, Miss. is red county in a red state, is majority white, and was carried Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in 2012, according to the Heritage Foundation. This could blunt the argument generally used by Democrats and the Holder Justice Department, that voter integrity measures harm minority voters and benefit Republican candidates.
The ACRU has filed a similar case against Jefferson Davis County in Mississippi, which is still pending. A trial date has been set for June 2014.
The county seat of Walthall County is Tylertown, and it has a population of just over 15,000.
The consent decree approved by U.S. District Judge Keith Starrett of the Southern District of Mississippi requires Walthall County to check its voter registration list against the Social Security Administration and the Mississippi Department of Health to find dead voters; with the state Department of Motor Vehicles records to find voters who have moved out of the county; and with conviction records of the local county court clerk, the Mississippi Department of Corrections, and the Mississippi and Louisiana U.S. attorneys’ offices to find convicted felons no longer eligible to vote; with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) database to find non citizens; and with jury-duty declinations and county tax filings to find non citizens and nonresidents.
"This is historic and should have been done 20 years ago," ACRU Chairman Susan A. Carleson said of the Walthall case. "It's the first time since Motor Voter was enacted in 1993 giving private parties the right to sue over voting irregularities that any private party has won a case to require clean voter rolls. With the Justice Department on the warpath against state election integrity laws, it couldn't come at a better time."