WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Jan. 25, the Detroit/Downriver Chapter of the A. Philip Randolph Institute, the Michigan Alliance for Retired Americans and Rise filed a motion to intervene in Public Interest Legal Foundation v. Benson, a federal case seeking to purge voters from Michigan’s voter rolls. The lawsuit, filed in November 2020 by the right-wing group Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF), alleges that Michigan does not conduct adequate list maintenance in violation of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA). PILF used a method of identifying names listed in the Social Security Death Index and checking them against publicly available information and claims that there may be 25,975 deceased voters on Michigan’s voter rolls. (The defendant, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D), pointed out in her motion to dismiss the case that PILF’s calculation is supported by very little evidence.) The lawsuit asks the court to order Michigan to “allow inspection of records” so that PILF can ascertain the “accuracy and currency” of Michigan’s voters who they believe are deceased. PILF is also asking the court to order Michigan election officials to comply with the NVRA and conduct a list maintenance program that PILF deems necessary for past and new registrants.
The proposed intervenors seek to defend against the disenfranchisement that could result from this lawsuit, arguing that voters may be “improperly purged from Michigan’s voter rolls due to error-prone or highly questionable database matching efforts.” The organizations, which all focus on “encouraging and supporting their members’ and constituents’ participation in the electoral process,” argue that their presence in the case is necessary to protect the voting rights of their members because PILF seeks to “weaponize the NVRA to improperly force the purge of Michigan’s voter rolls.” The court will now determine whether the three organizations can participate in the case.