Conservative group sues N.J. over voter registration records

State says documents would ‘expose critical vulnerability’ in election system

By: - June 20, 2022 6:58 am

The Public Interest Legal Foundation claims it has found more than 8,000 people in New Jersey’s voter rolls that are registered more than once. (Daniella Heminghaus for New Jersey Monitor)

A conservative group is seeking to force New Jersey’s secretary of state to release information about how her office maintains its voter rolls.

In a federal suit lodged last month, the Public Interest Legal Foundation sued Secretary of State Tahesha Way, alleging her department violated federal law when it denied the organization’s Open Public Records Act request for documents on how the state clears duplicate voter registrations.

Lauren Bowman, a foundation spokeswoman, said the group performed data analysis of New Jersey’s voter rolls that found more than 8,000 people registered more than once.

“We must have transparency in our elections so the people of New Jersey can have trust in our election process,” she said.

The Public Interest Legal Foundation, formerly known as the Act Right Legal Foundation, has previously filed suits seeking to compel other states to purge voters from their rolls for inactivity and other reasons, like duplicate registration.

Though the foundation has had some success in forcing states to disclose voter registration data, other suits have also failed.

The New Jersey Department of State denied the group’s records request in March, saying their release would “expose critical vulnerability within the state’s election process” because they detail how to make discrete changes to the Statewide Voter Registration System.

“If disclosed, this information would create a grave risk to the integrity of New Jersey’s election system,” the department said in its denial.

The Public Interest Legal Foundation alleges the denial violated the National Voter Registration Act and claims the disclosure of the records is mandated under the federal statute.

Earlier this month, the group released a report charging it had identified more than 8,000 duplicate registrations in New Jersey, nearly 2,400 registered voters whom the group believes are too old to be alive, and about 33,600 registrants whose listed dates of birth the group says are fictitious or placeholders.

“New Jersey has some explaining to do in how it collects and maintains basic voter information,” J. Christian Adams, Public Interest Legal Foundation’s president, said in a statement attached to the report.

More than 6.4 million residents are registered to vote in New Jersey.

The state has yet to respond to the foundation’s complaint but must do so by June 23.

The Public Interest Legal Foundation has released reports charging voter fraud in Virginia that it was forced to retract and apologize for as part of a settlement reached after individuals it named in those accounts sued for defamation.

A federal suit the group filed alleging voter fraud in Florida was also dismissed.

But the group isn’t without its successes. Last year, Pennsylvania agreed to conduct a supplementary one-time review to remove dead voters from its rolls as part of a settlement reached with the foundation.

Earlier this year, courts in Maine and Illinois ordered officials to release voter lists to the group, ruling their initial refusal may have violated the National Voter Registration Act.


Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Nikita Biryukov
Nikita Biryukov

Nikita Biryukov most recently covered state government and politics for the New Jersey Globe. His tenure there included revelatory stories on marijuana legalization, voting reform and Rep. Jeff Van Drew's decamp to the Republican Party. Earlier, he worked as a freelancer for The Home News Tribune and The Press of Atlantic City.