Right-Wing Legal Group Files Lawsuits to Access Voter Rolls in Minnesota and Wisconsin

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The right-wing legal group, Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF), filed two new lawsuits on Tuesday in Minnesota and Wisconsin to gain full access to their voter registration records.

PILF, which has ties to numerous election deniers like former Trump attorneys Cleta Mitchell and John Eastman, has filed lawsuits in multiple states — including Michigan and South Carolina — to access their voter rolls because the group claims that many states are not updating their lists. 

However, PILF has taken a different legal approach in these recent lawsuits. The National Voter Registration Act’s (NVRA) Public Disclosure Provision requires states to publicly share how they maintain their voter lists for a period of at least two years.

Section 4 of the NVRA, also known as the Motor Voter Law, exempts six states — Idaho, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Wisconsin and Wyoming — that did not have a voter registration requirement or that allowed any voter to register at a polling place on Election Day prior to Aug. 1, 1994, over a year after the law was passed in May of 1993.

In its Wisconsin and Minnesota lawsuits, PILF argues that their exemption from the NVRA violates the “principle of equal state sovereignty” by giving the exempt states different treatment than other states. The right-wing legal group is asking the court to invalidate the exemption and to rule that the NVRA supersedes both Wisconsin and Minnesota laws.

Though the lawsuits were filed this week, PILF’s attempts to access the two states’ voter rolls began back in January when the group requested copies of Wisconsin and Minnesota voter registration lists. 

The Wisconsin Election Commission said it could provide the official voter registration list, but would not include the year of birth information that PILF requested because state law allows the commission to restrict access to certain details from the list. In yesterday’s complaint, PILF argues that the election commission must produce this information.

Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon’s (D) office fully denied PILF’s request, explaining that under state law, Minnesota only provides this information to registered voters in the state. In its complaint, PILF argues that the state must provide the voter registration list to any member of the public, regardless of where they live in the country.

Since 2021, PILF has also been filing cases in states not exempt from the NVRA, including Colorado, Hawaii, Michigan and South Carolina. The legal group argues that it needs access to all of these voting registration records in order to determine whether the states’ lists are accurate and to monitor how the lists are maintained.

The new Wisconsin and Minnesota lawsuits come as protecting voter data is a key concern ahead of the 2024 election with organizations like PILF and the Republican National Committee (RNC) pursuing legal action to try to make voter records public. 

Democracy Docket is currently tracking six active lawsuits by PILF and two by the RNC that either seek to make voter records publicly available or remove voters from states’ voter rolls. 

Learn more about the Minnesota case here.

Learn more about the Wisconsin case here.