Colorado SoS Sued For Illegal Purge Of Voters
Advancement Project Sues Colorado Secretary Of State For Illegal Purge Of Voters
Yesterday, Advancement Project, a national voter protection organization, and others filed a lawsuit on behalf of Colorado Common Cause, Mi Familia Vota, a non-partisan civic engagement campaign, and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) against Colorado Secretary of State, Mike Coffman, to challenge an illegal purges and cancellation practices that apparently have removed between 16,000 and 30,000 voters from Colorado’s rolls.
“These purge programs violate a federal law that is intended to protect eligible voters from being swept off the rolls," said Penda Hair, co-director, Advancement Project. "The state admits engaging in these practices and purging thousands of voters’ registration records without notice. We felt that filing this action was the only way we could ensure that thousands of Colorado residents would not show up at the polls on Election Day only to find they could not participate in this historic national election.”
Advancement Project is challenging two types of purging practices by the state as violations of the National Voting Rights Act (NVRA).
First, Secretary Coffman has implemented a Colorado law requiring cancellation of new registrations when a non-forwardable notice sent by mail to the voter is returned as undeliverable within 20 days of receipt of the registration application. As recently determined by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, a state law mandating cancellation of new voter registrations because a mailed notice was returned as undeliverable violates the NVRA and cannot be enforced. These 20-day cancellations have removed several thousand eligible voters. Coffman has admitted, 1,136 of these voters were purged between July 21 and October 9. Moreover, his records show that 3,291 of these voters have been purged since August 2007.
Second, in an action not required by any Colorado law, the Secretary of State has removed tens of thousands of voters from the official voter rolls after August 4, 2008, in violation of the NVRA, which bans systematic removal of voters from the rolls within 90 days of a federal election, except for narrowly specified reasons. Secretary Coffman issued a statement on October 9, 2008 admitting that at least 12,000 voters have been purged from the rolls within this period for reasons not permitted by the NVRA. More importantly, Advancement Project has substantial evidence that during the NVRA’s 90 day no-purge period, defendant Secretary of State actually removed more than 20,000 voters’ registration records from Colorado’s voting rolls, in addition to the 1,892 who were removed for the NVRA-allowed reasons because of death, incarceration for a felony, or withdrawal.
The lawsuit asks the court to grant relief that would:
Discontinue purging any voters from the official list of eligible voters for any reason not allowed by the NVRA between now and November 4, 2008;
Identify and reinstate any and all voters who were improperly purged from the official list of registered voters during the 90 day no-purge period, except those exempted by the NVRA, and all voters disqualified through the illegal cancellation procedure based on return of the single registration card.