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Federal Judge Hears Arguments on Whether Circuit Clerks Have Right to Redact Voting Records

By Paul Boger | Published 24 Jul 2014 11:02pm | comments

A federal judge from Texas has given lawyers for conservative watchdog group True the Vote as well as Counsel for the state and the Mississippi Republican Party more time to file paperwork.

The issue is whether birthdates should be redacted from voting records from last month's G.O.P. Senate Runoff Election. 

During an eight hour hearing in federal court in downtown Jackson, a judge heard arguments on whether Mississippi Circuit Clerks have the right to redact sensitive information like birthdates from voting records.
 
The lawsuit, which was filed earlier this month by 22 Mississippians and True the Vote, seeks access to unaltered records so that the groups may conduct an investigation into voter fraud in last Month's Republican Senate Runoff. Attorney Joe Nixon of Texas represents True the Vote. He says the information is vital to their investigations.
 
"This is about ensuring the validity." says Nixon. "We have the ability through data management to understand if there's really problem or not. Do you realize that half of Americans change their name in their life time? The one thing they don't change is their date of birth. That's the one identifier that doesn't change in a person’s lifetime."
 
Nixon and his legal team argued that under the National Voting Registration Act of 1993, birthdates, as they appear on voting rolls or poll books, are public record.
 
However, Assistant Attorney General Harold Pizzeta contended that the information was sensitive in nature and that the Freedom of Information Act of 1966 specifies that birthdates are private and not subject to disclosure. 
 
While U-S District Judge Nancy Atlas of Texas made it clear that she would not be making a ruling on the case in the near future, she did say she thought the suit was pretty cut and dry. Speaking from the bench judge Atlas says, “It's about whether the National Voter Registration Act was complied with in Mississippi and whether it preempts state statute.” She went onto say, “this case is about transparency of the voter process with the counter issue of voter privacy."
 
Atlas also said that she was not here for a popularity contest, and that being from Texas she had no interest in any election that ever happens in Mississippi.
 
Lawyers for both sides have until mid-August to submit additional briefs that support their case. Atlas will make a ruling after that.

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