BROOKLYN, N.Y. (CN) - The Department of Justice is intervening in a lawsuit against New York City's Board of Elections, claiming the board illegally purged more than 117,000 Brooklyn voters in the run up to last April's presidential primary.
Common Cause New York, a grassroots group focused on government accountability, filed suit against the Board of Elections on November 3 to restore the registration of Brooklyn residents who were removed from voter rolls solely because they had failed to vote in past elections or respond to notices confirming their eligibility.
In a brief filed Thursday in the Eastern District of New York, the U.S. government says the board violated the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, and that without intervention their lax oversight of voter list maintenance procedures could lead to similar problems in the future.
"Unless and until ordered to do so by this Court, the Defendants will not take timely and comprehensive actions necessary to fully remedy the violations and prevent the same or similar violations from recurring," government attorneys wrote in the brief.
Section 8 of the NVRA allows a state to remove voters from registration lists based on reliable information that the voter has moved, but first it must send a confirmation notice to the voter's home and allow two federal general elections to pass.
The Board of Elections failed to follow these steps, according to the brief, improperly dropping thousands of Brooklyn voters between November 2015 and April 2016.
“Federal law demands careful maintenance of the voter rolls to ensure lists are kept accurate, without unjustifiably and unlawfully purging eligible citizens,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, in a press release. “The department appreciates the continued cooperation of the New York City Board of Elections, including proactive steps taken to start remedying violations that have occurred – but more is necessary to reach full compliance with the law.”
The federal government seeks a declaration that the Board of Elections violated Section 8 of the NVRA and an order that it comply with the law.
Common Cause New York and the Board of Elections did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Friday.