At the urging of an election integrity group, a federal judge ordered Pennsylvania to hand over records showing the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation had allowed foreign nationals to register to vote for decades.
The order came the month after a federal court ruled that Illinois violated the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) of 1993, when it refused to provide the same group access to the state’s voter roll, as The Epoch Times reported. NVRA provides that election officials must allow inspection of all records related to the maintenance of the voter rolls.
Judge Christopher C. Conner of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania wrote in the court’s decision that “transparency in how states determine voter eligibility—the vital bedrock of our electoral system—is generally paramount.”
The 26-page order in the case, Public Interest Legal Foundation v. Chapman, court file 1:19-cv-622, was issued March 31 by Conner, who was appointed by then-President George W. Bush.
Acting Secretary of the Commonwealth Leigh M. Chapman, and her colleague, Jonathan M. Marks, deputy secretary for elections and commissions, were named as defendants in the lawsuit.
J. Christian Adams, president of the Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF), which brought the lawsuit back in February 2018, described the court’s ruling as a huge victory for the rule of law.
“This is a monumental victory for election integrity,” said Adams, formerly a civil rights attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice, in a statement PILF provided to The Epoch Times.
“Americans have a right to documents exposing government malfeasance, and non-citizens being registered and even voting. Pennsylvania spent four years fighting transparency and trying to hide their mistakes. It is sad that transparency in Pennsylvania elections had to be enforced by a court.”
The Indianapolis-based foundation describes itself as “the nation’s only public interest law firm dedicated wholly to election integrity,” saying that it exists “to assist states and others to aid the cause of election integrity and fight against lawlessness in American elections.”
PILF says it “seeks to protect the right to vote and preserve the Constitutional framework of American elections,” and has brought lawsuits and obtained victories in Texas, Mississippi, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and across the United States.
Pennsylvania had publicly acknowledged in late 2017 that what it called a programming “glitch” at the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) had permitted foreign nationals to register to vote for decades.
“PennDOT’s glitch quickly became a public scandal, generating extensive media coverage and investigative hearings in the Pennsylvania legislature,” the court stated.
PILF initiated a public records request, seeking records demonstrating the extent of the problem and actions taken by the state to fix errors in the official voter lists. The state denied the request, saying the documents were outside the scope of federal inspection rights.
In the lawsuit, PILF also asked to inspect the voting history of more than 1,100 non-citizen registrants who self-reported their ineligibility and asked for their voter registrations to be canceled.
At one point in the litigation, the court denied the state’s request to throw out the lawsuit. The state then shared incomplete records with PILF. The list of names provided to the group was what the court called a “veritable sea of black ink” that failed to disclose voting histories.
In its new ruling, the court held that the state must disclose these voting histories as well. The court also determined that if states keep records for longer than the two-year requirement by the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, also known as the “Motor-Voter” law, they must also disclose these records if they are relevant to a public records request.
PILF said its attorneys in the case were Noel H. Johnson and Kaylan Philips. Philadelphia-based Linda A. Kerns served as local counsel.
The Epoch Times reached out to Chapman’s office for comment but had not received a reply as of press time.