Watchdog Sues California County for Refusing to Release Information on Noncitizen Voters

Alameda County’s lack of transparency is ‘concerning as we enter a presidential election year.’
Watchdog Sues California County for Refusing to Release Information on Noncitizen Voters
Voters cast their ballots in the voting booths at the early vote location at the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center in North Charleston, S.C., on Oct. 16, 2020. (Logan Cyrus/AFP via Getty Images)
Naveen Athrappully

The Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF) filed a federal lawsuit against Alameda County after an official declined its request to provide details of noncitizen voters.

On Sept. 7 last year, PILF requested records related to foreign nationals registering and voting in U.S. elections. However, defendant Timothy Dupuis, the county’s registrar of voters, failed to provide the information. On Feb. 12, PILF filed a lawsuit alleging that the defendant violated the public disclosure provision of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) of 1993 “for failure to permit inspection of voter list maintenance records.”
“For more than four months, we have been trying to obtain records about foreign nationals getting on the voter roll,” PILF’s president J. Christian Adams said. “Alameda County’s lack of transparency is concerning as we enter a presidential election year. The public has a right to inspect election records, including these important records that reveal mistakes and errors by election officials.”

PILF pointed out in the lawsuit that U.S. citizenship “is a qualification to register and vote in California.”

As the registrar of voters for Alameda County, Mr. Dupuis is tasked with evaluating the “eligibility for voter registration including citizenship and must reject voter registrations and cancel any registration record if the registrant does not meet these eligibility requirements.”

In their Sept. 7 request, PILF had sought:
  • Records showing the number of voter registrations canceled because the registrant did not satisfy the citizenship requirements
  • Records related to such cancellations, including copies of voter registration applications, voter registration records, voting history, and related correspondence sent or received by the registrar’s office
On Oct. 12, 2023, PILF notified the Alameda Registrar of Voters that it was violating NVRA. “Records concerning Defendant Dupuis’ voter list maintenance activities related to a registrant’s qualifications, including citizenship, are public records under the NVRA,” the group pointed out in the lawsuit.
On Jan. 10, PILF received a response from Mr. Dupuis stating that they will respond to the request by Jan. 19. However, PILF “has not yet received any further communication.”

Right to Check Records

NVRA’s public disclosure provision “authorizes and entitles the foundation (PILF) to inspect and duplicate the requested records,” the group stated.

Mr. Dupuis’ alleged NVRA violation caused PILF a “concrete informational injury because the foundation does not have records and information to which it is entitled under federal law.”

PILF intends to use the records to investigate Alameda County’s voter list maintenance activities while also ensuring that the county is in compliance with state and federal laws.

The denial of requested records “causes harm to the foundation as it is required to expend additional resources and staff while limiting the foundation’s ability to fund other pending investigations and programming.”

The group claims it also affected PILF’s other activities such as “providing policy advice to state officials and legislative guidance and testimony to Congress regarding state compliance with voting rights legislation requirements.”

The group asked the court to declare that Mr. Dupuis violated the NVRA and to order him to provide the requested records to the foundation. It also asked the court to “permanently enjoin the defendant from denying similar requests in the future.”

Noncitizen Voting

PILF has collected government records related to noncitizen voters for almost a decade. The organization has brought and won several cases in Texas, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina in order to access records of foreign nationals registering and voting in the United States.
Foreign nationals registering to vote in U.S. races is not uncommon. According to PILF data, Pima County, Arizona, canceled 186 voter registrations due to citizenship issues between 2021 and 2023, with seven of them having voting histories.

Similarly, 222 voter registrations in Maricopa County, Arizona, were canceled between 2015 and 2023 for these similar issues, with nine people having a history of casting votes.

“The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (Motor Voter) provides the most common pathway for foreign nationals to get registered to vote. The 24 states plus D.C. which automate Motor Voter, not giving the immigrant the chance to decline registration, exacerbate the problem,” PILF said.

“States with higher amounts of legal immigration mean even more driver’s licenses or state IDs are needed for daily life (and increases the risk of screening immigrants for voter registration),” PILF states.

The foundation pointed out that key battleground states with a high number of third-party voter registration drives also create a risk of noncitizens registering to vote.

For instance, “roughly 65 percent of records [in Pima County] came from ‘political parties and group drives’. Although conclusions in other studies established that organizers of voter registration drives can be left-leaning, the party affiliations of the registrants within the Pima disclosure are more varied.”

PILF recently secured a victory in Maine when a federal appeals court ruled earlier this month that the state’s restrictions on releasing voter lists violated NVRA.

The lawsuit was filed by PILF back in February 2020 after the Maine secretary of state’s office denied the group’s request for a copy of the voter registration file and voting histories in 2019.

The court ruled that Maine’s restrictions were “real obstacles” in achieving Congress’ objective of transparency and oversight of the election process through the NVRA.