This column by Jimmie E. Gates was published July 28, 2015 by The Clarion Ledger.
The American Civil Rights Union has filed a federal lawsuit against Clarke County claiming the county has more voters on its rolls than living citizens of voting age.
The lawsuit was filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Mississippi against the Clarke County Election Commission.
The lawsuit says: “Voter rolls maintained by the Defendant for Clarke County contain more voters registered to vote than citizens eligible to vote. In March 2015… Clarke County, Mississippi had 12,646 registered voters, despite having a voting age population of only 12,549 according to the United States Census. More than 100 percent of living citizens old enough to vote were registered to vote in Clarke County in 2015.”
The lawsuit alleges that the Election Commission has failed to provide required maintenance of the county’s voting rolls.
Clarke County Circuit Clerk Beth Jordan said the county is in the process, along with the Board of Supervisors attorney, of working with the ACRU to address voter rolls problems or concerns.
“It was our understanding they were going to give us some time. You know there is a procedure that all counties go through to remove voters,” Jordan said. “If we get information that a voter no longer lives in our county, we are required to mail them something and give them a chance to reply and tell if [sic] whether they still live in the county. It takes a little time. You cannot just mark someone off the voter rolls based upon some information. So we are in that process (cleaning up voter rolls). We are working on that and thought this group understood that and was going to give us some more time to accomplish this, but they just all of a sudden filed suit.”
Jordan said the county has a population of more than 17,000 residents.
However, the group said it initially sent a letter in June 2014 to the then-chairwoman of the election commission notifying her that the county was in violation of federal voter registration laws. Since the letter was sent, the situation has grown worse and the percentage of register voters to eligible residents has climbed, according to the group.
“Corrupted voter rolls provide the perfect environment for voter fraud,” said J. Christian Adams, president and General Counsel of the Public Interest Legal Foundation, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of the ACRU. “Mississippians should not have to wonder this November if their legitimate vote was cancelled by a vote cast by an illegitimate vote in Clarke County.”
This enforcement action is the first case in the Public Interest Legal Foundation’s efforts to clean corrupted voter rolls around the nation ahead of the 2016 Presidential election. The group claims the U.S. Department of Justice under President Barack Obama’s administration has shut down enforcement of Section 8 of the NVRA and thus allowed voters rolls around the nation to remain corrupted and filled with ineligible registrations. The plaintiff, through lawyers in this case, have brought similar lawsuits and obtained consent decrees against other Mississippi counties for corrupted voter rolls.