Multiple national civil rights organizations are urging election officials in 248 jurisdictions across the country to reject what they consider the Public Interest Legal Foundation’s (PILF) attempt at a wide-scale voter purge.
The group of organizations, which includes Demos, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, released a letter on Wednesday, Nov. 22 blasting PILF’s use of deceptive tactics, voter suppression and actions that could violate the National Voter Registration Act.
“Purge programs are an old and familiar tactic used to suppress the rights of voters,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “Today, we are undertaking preemptive action to block the Public Interest Legal Foundation’s baseless attempt to incite and bully election officials into instituting unlawful purge programs across the country.
“We can’t ignore the fact that PILF’s voter purge campaign is being waged by [J. Christian Adams, executive director of PILF], one of the commissioners serving on the president’s so-called Election Integrity Commission,” she said.
Clarke said it is clear that PILF’s campaign is part of a larger coordinated effort across the country to promote voter suppression efforts, including purge programs that risk the removal of legitimately registered voters from the rolls.
“The job of election officials is to help people vote, not stop them from voting, and we will do everything we can to help ensure that election officials carry out their jobs in compliance with federal law,” she said.
Jonathan Brater, counsel for the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program and co-signer of the memo sent out to 248 jurisdictions, said that PILF and their act of “scaring local officials into complying with their agenda is not only wrong, but it also could lead to illegal purges.”
“Federal law does not require what PILF demands,” Brater said. “We are ready to help those jurisdictions who got these letters to continue to help people exercise their fundamental right to vote.”
Last week, Adams, a member of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrituy, pressed the U.S. Department of Justice to provide the commission with a report on voter fraud prosecutions over the past decade.
The inquiry alarmed the civil rights organizations, prompting the memo, which stated:
“In part because of the PILF letter’s deficiencies, we are concerned that it was sent with the intention of bullying or inducing counties into undertaking more aggressive voter purge practices, which could lead to the removal of eligible voters from the rolls, especially poor people and people of color.
“As organizations that represent and protect voters, we are deeply concerned that PILF’s threats will scare election administrators into performing ill-conceived or illegal list maintenance programs, in violation of federal law.”