Jeff Davis County signs decree to clean voter rolls

Published 5:53 pm Saturday, October 26, 2013

Jefferson Davis County officials signed a consent decree on Friday in federal court that orders election commissioners to clean up voter rolls by removing ineligible voters.

A lawsuit was filed against the county in April by the American Civil Rights Union (ACRU) in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi in Hattiesburg.

Attorneys who filed the lawsuit were J. Christian Adams, a former Justice Department (DOJ) Voting Section attorney, former Department of Justice Voting Section Chief Christopher Coates, and Eupora, MS attorney Henry Ross.

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The suit contends Jeff Davis County allowed voter rolls to include more people registered to vote than there were citizens of voting age population in the county based on Census data.

“From 2010 to 2012, the percentage of people registered to vote in Jeff Davis County was 104-106% higher than it should be,” said Adams in an interview in the office of The Prentiss Headlight on September 18. “It’s their [election commissioners] job to clean up voter rolls.”

Jeff Davis County is the second U.S. county to settle out of court with ACRU, after Walthall County signed a similar agreement on September 4. Jeff Davis County will pay attorney’s fees to ACRU not to exceed $7,500.

“So far, we’re batting one thousand on these suits aimed at ensuring election integrity,” said ACRU Chairman and CEO Susan A. Carleson in a press release. “It’s on to Texas, where we have already alerted 15 counties that they also have severe voting roll disparities.”

In the consent decree, Jeff Davis County agrees to remove deceased and duplicate voter names from the rolls along with those persons convicted of disqualifying felonies in the MS Constitution by January 31, 2014. The felonies for which voting rights are lost in Mississippi are murder, rape, bribery, theft, arson, obtaining money or goods under false pretenses, perjury, forgery, embezzlement, bigamy, and most crimes involving illegally taking property.

Also in the consent decree, the commissioners will send out a county-wide mailing via first-class mail before November 15 to every county voter for address verification. Voters will be required to return a postage-prepaid card confirming their address. Those who fail to respond will be marked “inactive.”

Election commissioners will use various state and federal databases to prove a voter should be removed from the rolls such as databases from the MS Secretary of State, the Department of Health, the Social Security Master Death Index, the Department of Homeland Security and the MS Department of Corrections for this information.

The decree states that the county must inform ACRU as to the total discrepancies identified in the rolls by January 31, 2014 and will continue to do so on a quarterly basis until the agreement is terminated on December 31, 2016.

The ACRU Election Integrity Defense Project webpage entitled “Do the Dead Vote In Your County?” lists 227 counties in the United States as “plausibly” having more registered voters than citizens of voting age. The list is in order of worst-to-least offenders. Of those 227 listed, 26 counties are Mississippi counties. Jefferson Davis County is not on the list.

In a September 4 story in the Washington Post about the Walthall County settlement, ACRU was described as a “Virginia-based conservative group.”

“We’re not conservative,” said Adams. “ACRU is not affiliated with a political party. This is not an idealogical battle. This is a good government effort.”

“Over four million ineligible voters were on the rolls for last year’s Presidential election,” said Adams in the press release. “That’s a national disgrace.”

Jeff Davis County attorney Wes Daughdrill commented, “They [ACRU] filed a lawsuit, and we settled on terms we believed were favorable to the citizens of this county.”