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Judicial Watch

Judicial Watch Warns 14 Counties in Five States to Clean Voter Lists or Face Federal Lawsuits
Biden Administration Illegally Censored Afghanistan Reports?
Secret Service Travel Cost $2,252,600.50 For President Biden

Judicial Watch Warns 14 Counties in Five States to Clean Voter Lists or Face Federal Lawsuits

In important news, Judicial Watch sent official notice letters to election officials in 14 counties and five states—Arkansas, California, Illinois, New York, and Oregon—notifying them of evident violations of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA). 

The letters detail how these states’ own reported data show that their counties removed an “absurdly low” or “impossible” number of inactive voter registrations under key provisions of the NVRA. The letters threaten federal lawsuits unless the violations are corrected in a timely fashion.

The NVRA requires states to “conduct a general program that makes a reasonable effort to remove” from the official voter rolls “the names of ineligible voters” who have died or changed residence. Among other things, the NVRA requires registrations to be cancelled when voters fail to respond to address confirmation notices and then fail to vote in the next two general federal elections. In 2018, the Supreme Court confirmed that such removals are mandatory (Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Inst., 138 S. Ct. 1833, 1841-42 (2018)).

States are required by federal law to report data concerning their removal programs to the federal Election Assistance Commission (EAC). Every few years the EAC publishes this data as part of a report it provides to Congress. The most recent report and accompanying datasets were released in August of this year.

The data show that many U.S. counties reported mere handfuls of removals—and often no removals—of registrants who failed to respond to an address confirmation and failed to vote for two consecutive elections. To identify counties that are chronically behind in removing outdated registrations, we looked at the last four years of reported data, from November 2016 through November 2020. We found that some of the largest counties in the country reported absurdly low removal numbers under the NVRA’s statutory removal procedure for change of address during that period. The 14 counties receiving notice letters, the size of their registration lists, and the NVRA removals they reported are:

CountyTotal voter registrations in Nov. 20204-year total of registrations removed after notice and 2 elections
San Bernardino County, Calif.1,294,03814
Sacramento County, Calif.1,049,4950
Contra Costa County, Calif.735,8181
Fresno County, Calif.573,8732
Stanislaus County, Calif.356,7442
Solano County, Calif.338,7644
Kings County (Brooklyn), N.Y.1,735,3720
Queens County, N.Y.1,366,7590
New York County (Manhattan), N.Y.1,250,7932
Nassau County, N.Y.1,089,4670
Bronx County, N.Y.867,7161
Richmond County (Staten Island), N.Y.344,3750
Multnomah County (Portland), Ore.571,3835
Lane County, Ore.274,0542
Total11,848,65133

Robert Popper, our senior attorney and director of our voting integrity efforts, observed that, “About 10% of Americans move every year. Those counties should generate hundreds of thousands of cancelled registrations. There is simply no way to comply with federal law while removing so few outdated registrations under its key provision.”

Popper, formerly Deputy Chief of the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, emphasized that these numbers come directly from state reports to the EAC. 

We also sent notice letters threatening lawsuits against statewide election officials in Arkansas and Illinois on the ground that many counties in those states reported similarly low numbers of statutory removals.

Once again, we are leading the charge for clean voter rolls and election integrity. These letters are just the beginning of another sweep, in federal court if necessary, to clean voter rolls throughout the country.

As you know, in the past our actions have led to a number of voter roll cleanups and successful NVRA lawsuits. 

A 2020 letter from us to Allegheny County, Pennsylvania led to the removal of 69,000 outdated registrations. In 2018, the Supreme Court upheld a voter roll cleanup program that resulted from our settlement of a federal lawsuit with Ohio. Kentucky began cleaning up hundreds of thousands of old registrations in 2019 after it too entered into a consent decree in 2018 to end another Judicial Watch lawsuit. California also settled an NVRA lawsuit with us and began the process of removing up to 1.6 million inactive names from Los Angeles County’s voter rolls.

In 2020, we sued North CarolinaPennsylvania, and Colorado for failing to clean their voter rolls.

In October 2020, we released a study that found 353 counties nationwide that had more voter registrations than citizens old enough to vote, i.e., counties where registration rates exceed 100%. Based on this research, in 2020, a federal court ordered the State of Maryland to produce complete voter registration records for Montgomery County that include the registered voters’ dates of birth.

In September 2020, we filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Illinois Conservative Union (ICU) and three of its officers, after Illinois state officials refused to allow them to obtain a copy of the state’s voter registration database. In June 2021, a federal court ruled the lawsuit could proceed.

We expect to take other action soon in other states, so be sure to stay tuned!

Biden Administration Illegally Censored Afghanistan Reports?

The Biden surrender in Afghanistan was a catastrophe, and it was deadly for many Americans. Also, the Biden administration may have broken the law to hide details of the consequences of Biden’s decision-making.

We received 119 pages of records from the office of the Special Inspector General For Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), which show Special Inspector General John Sopko’s opposition to the Biden administration’s order to remove Internet access to hundreds of pages of public reports on the weaponry and training the U.S. provided to Afghan security forces.

Judicial Watch obtained the records in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request sent on September 13, 2021, for records related to the scrubbing of reports about Afghanistan from the SIGAR web site.

On August 16, 2021, at 3:18 p.m., one day after the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan’s capital Kabul, Carole Clay, an official at the State Department’s Bureau of the Comptroller and Global Financial Services, emails SIGAR official Matt Dove to inform him of the State Department’s “unprecedented request” to SIGAR “to suspend large portions of your website and public access to reports and records:

We request urgent assistance in identifying and temporarily removing (and potentially redacting on a longer term basis) all potentially sensitive and identifying information on U.S. government assistance programs/projects in Afghanistan. A great many of your historical publications contain extensive details about activities and partners that could put individuals at risk in the current environment.

***

We are also making requests to the GAO and OIG communities to assist in this effort. Because SIGAR is probably the most extensive source for vendor and other information in Afghanistan through the information available for your website, it might be easiest to disable the website functionality for accessing reports and other publications and notifications. Obviously we request this as soon as possible.”

Dove responds at 3:43 p.m. and includes Sopko and others: “Thanks Carol and appreciate the chat.”

Mr. Sopko, Gene, and John,

***

Bottom Line: State thinks some of the information in our reports (think Afghan companies/contract information) could put individuals at heightened risk given recent developments in Afghanistan. From my perspective, scrubbing OUR reports would be onerous and not timely (consider the work to just scrub our published financial audits). One option may be to temporarily disable certain portions of the website while the dust settles in Afghanistan and we decide on a long‐term solution—I am not sure the implication of such action given our Congressional mandate to make our reports public, though. This decision is obviously above my paygrade. For what it is worth, my advice would be to consider working with State on this; State is already taking action websites it/USAID controls and the other OIGs/GAO may be taking similar action. I am standing by to move out as instructed or to pass the ball to you for action.

On August 16, 2021, at 4:06 p.m. Sopko writes to SIGAR staff: “Do not take anything down until we receive an official request in writing”

At 4:15 p.m., Sopko notifies Dove that Clay’s approval of removing the reports is “not sufficient. I want it from the secretary or deputy secretary or as the minimum her boss. She is a mere office director. What is the basis of her conclusion that reports that have been public for years are now causing a risk. I repeat do not pull anything down until we get a better and more authoritative request.”

In an email to SIGAR staff, also on August 16, Sopko reiterates his opposition to removing the reports:

Let me repeat. Do not do anything on her request until and unless we receive something in writing from her boss or a senior political appointee. You can advise her if your prior mistake I [sic] agreeing without first clearing it with the IG. Pulling old public documents make no sense since they have been available for years. It also violates the IG act.

At 4:51 p.m. on August 16, Dove writes to Clay: “The IG would like a formal request from the Comptroller, or above, that outlines the request, the reason for the request, and how/why the Department came to the conclusion that reports that have already been made publicly available now pose a new/heightened risk. Standing by to chat if you’d like to discuss.”

In an August 18, 2021, email to SIGAR Deputy IG Eugene Aloise, Dove notes that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) removed over 400reports from its website:

FYSA, I just talked to Carole Clay at State (the originator of this request). As I mentioned when this all first came up, State was working with GAO/IGs to get them to take similar action.

GAO agreed (as you and I did). Since the request on Monday, GAO has temporarily pulled 424 reports dealing with Afghanistan down from its site.

I thought that would further confirm the sound reasoning for our action.

On August 18, 2021, Sopko notes to Clay and others, that scrubbing the SIGAR website of public reports would be a “violation of the IG Act.” After a plea from top State Department officials, the reports were removed from the SIGAR site:

Carole, this is a highly unusual request without any explanation or justification for why you are requesting that we review and delete certain documents that have been posted on our web site — all in violation of the IG Act [see here]. Many of the records you are talking about have been up on our web for 10 or more years and my IT people tell me even if we delete them they are still out there in the internet since there are numerous programs readily available that regularly sweep and capture such material. I would prefer someone at State who is a political appointee explain in writing why you are making such a request as well as what is the basis of the threat and how this very labor intensive request will accomplish anything other than waste taxpayer dollars. John Sopko, SIGAR

On August 19, 2021, the State Department’s Comptroller Jeffrey Mounts writes to Sopko, claiming that it was necessary to remove the reports from federal websites over concern for “the welfare of vendors and individuals who have conducted work with the Department and who have yet to exit Afghanistan:”

Dear Mr. Sopko:

The Department of State is concerned about the welfare of vendors and individuals who have conducted work with the Department and who have yet to exit Afghanistan. Identifying information regarding these individuals is well documented among your audit, inspection, and financial audits/costs incurred audit reports. The Department formally requests that you temporarily suspend website access to these reports until these individuals can safely exit the country.

We acknowledge that the information has already been made publicly available, but we have reason to believe that this week’s events represent extraordinary circumstances of heightened risk and that temporarily removing access to reports with identifying information could possibly shield some of these individuals from harm. The potential benefit of keeping State partners out of harm’s way during these evacuations far exceeds the temporary loss of access to SI GAR reports, and we hope you will help us do what we can to make the current situation safer for our partners.

On August 31, a spokesperson for SIGAR admitted to the media that the agency pulled reports offline: “In recent days, some SIGAR reports have been temporarily removed from the agency’s public website due to ongoing security concerns in accordance with guidance received from the U.S. Department of State. This is in line with actions taken by other U.S. federal agencies and is out of an abundance of caution.”

These extraordinary emails document a cover-up and unprecedented government censorship to protect Joe Biden from further humiliation over his surrender in Afghanistan.

Secret Service Travel Cost $2,252,600.50 For President Biden

When the president travels, he takes security with him, and it costs big money, but the government isn’t keen on publicizing the costs of presidential security.

So Judicial Watch digs and gets the facts.

We just obtained records from the Secret Service in response to FOIA requests for all records concerning the use of U.S. Government funds to provide security and/or any other services to President Biden and any companions. These records detail Secret Service travel costs of $2,252,600.50 for President Joe Biden through August 8 for travel to Delaware and other domestic locations.

The Secret Service travel records show:

  • Biden’s August 6-8, 2021, trip to Wilmington, Delaware, cost $176,183.00 in hotels; $18,652.00 in car rentals; $24,322.39 in air/rail travel for a total of $219,157.39
  • Biden’s July 23-25, 2021, weekend trip to Wilmington cost $88,575.00 in hotels; $7,378.00 in car rentals; $14,319.69 in air/rail travel for a total of $110,272.69
  • Biden also took a trip to Wilmington earlier in July from July 9-11, 2021. That trip cost $74,289.00 in hotels; $23,727.72 in car rentals; $27,561.53 in air/rail travel for a total of $125,578.25
  • Biden’s July 3, 2021, trip to Michigan to celebrate progress against COVID-19 cost $151,395.70 in hotels; $18,992.00 in car rentals; $9,388.26 In air/rail travel for a total of $179,775.96
  • Biden’s June 18-20, 2021 trip to Wilmington cost $158,818.70 in hotels; $24,475.00 in car rentals; $19,896.21 in air/rail travel for a total of $203,189.91
  • Biden’s Delaware trips from January 20, 2021, to June 4, 2021, cost $1,125,646.50 in hotels; $10,893.40 in car rentals; $159,966.28 in air/rail travel for a total of $1,296,506.18
  • Biden’s April 29, 2021 trip to Atlanta to celebrate his first 100 days in office cost $11,141.00 in hotels; $22,581.30 in car rentals; $47,659.56 on air/rail travel for a total of $81,384.86

The Air Force has so far failed to respond to requests for information on Air Force One travel costs for these and other Biden trips. And the Secret Service has not yet provided records for other Biden weekend travel to Delaware.

The costs of presidential travel and security is of obvious public interest. It is frustrating that after years of litigation through two presidential administrations, the Secret Service and Air Force are still stonewalling the costs of presidential travel.

Until next week …

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