Briefline

Dead voters the subject of federal lawsuit from conservative group against Colorado secretary of state

By: - December 17, 2021 2:26 pm
Jena Griswold

Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold speaks outside a polling center at Swansea Recreation Center the morning of Colorado’s primary election on June 30, 2020. (Faith Miller/Colorado Newsline)

A conservative nonprofit is suing Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold for records of registered voters in the state who are potentially deceased, claiming that she violated federal law by withholding data.

The Indianapolis-based Public Interest Legal Foundation filed the federal lawsuit in Colorado’s U.S. District Court on Thursday, alleging that Griswold denied the organization’s request for voter list maintenance records despite transparency regulations under the National Voter Registration Act.

PILF “exists to assist states and others to aid the cause of election integrity,” according to its website. It has ties to former President Donald Trump, who has baselessly claimed the 2020 election was stolen from him, and has a history of making unfounded or misleading claims about mail-in voter fraud.

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In this case, PILF wanted data on potentially deceased voters in Colorado, and the lawsuit expresses particular concern about “voters who have died” remaining on the rolls. It cites three examples going back to 2005 of Coloradans voting on behalf of dead people. In two instances it cites, the person voted on behalf of their dead mother.

Federal law mandates that states make public the records it uses to maintain voter rolls.

“Colorado is hiding voter list maintenance documents the public is legally entitled to,” PILF President Christian Adams said in a statement announcing the lawsuit. “Elections must be free and transparent for Americans to trust their results. Secretary Griswold and ERIC are blocking transparency and violating federal law.”

ERIC refers to the Electronic Registration Information Center, an organization of state election officials whose mission is to improve the accuracy of voter rolls. ERIC collects voter registration and motor vehicle licensee data from member states and then sends back to those states reports with information such as which voters have moved, duplicate registrations and which voters may have died. Colorado uses those reports, along with other sources, to maintain its voter lists.

In June, PILF requested records related to those voter roll maintenance activities done in concert with ERIC — specifically it sought data on registered voters identified as deceased. The group wanted those records to include unique voter identification numbers, county or locality, full names, addresses and dates of birth.

The secretary of state’s office provided a spreadsheet that contained the records the department used to maintain the list of deceased voters, but some sensitive data was redacted.

PILF alleges that by not providing all of the requested information, Griswold is in violation of the public disclosure provision of the NVRA.

Griswold’s office, however, wrote in its August denial letter to PILF that it doesn’t consider reports with ERIC data “as its implementation of list maintenance activities for deceased voters, and therefore such reports are not required to be maintained or produced for public inspection” under the public disclosure provision.

ERIC bylaws instruct its member states to not disclose ERIC data without a court order compelling them to do so. That is the foundation of PILF’s argument: that ERIC bylaws are in contradiction with the public disclosure provision.

In the lawsuit, PILF argues that by not receiving the requested information, Griswold’s “violations of the NVRA are causing the Foundation to suffer a concrete informational injury because the Foundation does not have records and information to which it is entitled under federal law.”

Griswold called the lawsuit an “abuse of the judicial system” designed to undermine voters’ confidence.

“While we cannot comment on the specifics of the allegations because we have not been served the lawsuit at this time, there is no question that Colorado’s elections administrators have earned well-deserved credit for the accuracy and reliability of Colorado’s voter registration rolls and the state’s system of voter registration maintenance,” she said in a statement emailed to Colorado Newsline.

Claims that the 2020 election was fraudulent or compromised have been debunked by expertscourts and election officials from both parties.

PILF-v.-Griswold-Complaint (1)

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 4:10 p.m., Dec. 17, 2021, to add comments from Secretary of State Jena Griswold.

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Sara Wilson
Sara Wilson

Sara Wilson covers state government, Colorado's congressional delegation, energy and other stories for Newsline. She formerly was a reporter for The Pueblo Chieftain, where she covered politics and government in southern Colorado. Wilson earned a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University, and as a student she reported on Congress and other federal beats in Washington, D.C.

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