The Republican National Committee sues Michigan over the state’s voter rolls

The Republican National Committee sued Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, on Wednesday in an attempt to force election officials to trim down the state’s voter rolls.

The lawsuit, which was filed in federal court, argues that Michigan is violating the National Voter Registration Act’s requirement to maintain clean and accurate vote registration rolls.

The move comes just days after Trump allies effectively took over the RNC’s leadership ahead of the 2024 election.

“At least 53 Michigan counties have more active registered voters than they have adult citizens who are over the age of 18. That number of voters is impossibly high,” the lawsuit said. “An additional 23 counties have active-voter registration rates that exceed 90 percent of adult citizens over the age of 18. That figure far eclipses the national and statewide voter registration rate in recent elections.”

America’s voter roll system is built for registration, not removal. The rolls often include outdated registration as most voters do not remove themselves from the system when they move.

And while federal law requires officials take steps to keep the rolls up-to-date, it also protects voters from overzealous purges by requiring that officials wait years to remove a voter who has simply stopped casting a ballot.

Still, there’s no evidence that bloated voter rolls lead to voter fraud, even as Republicans increasingly seize on the rolls as a focus of their election activism.

Benson told NBC News in a statement that election officials in the state have “done more in the last five years than was done in the previous two decades to remove deceased voters and ineligible citizens from our voting rolls and ensure their accuracy.”

She said more than 700,000 voters have have been removed from the voter rolls since she took office, while another half million will be removed if they do not vote in this year’s general election.

“Let’s call this what it is: a PR campaign masquerading as a meritless lawsuit filled with baseless accusations that seek to diminish people’s faith in the security of our elections. Shame on anyone who abuses the legal process to sow seeds of doubt in our democracy,” Benson added.

Since the 2020 election, some Republican activists have taken to personally challenging the eligibility of thousands of voters and developing a computer program they believe will help them find fraud. 

In recent years, conservative activists also seized on a prominent voter roll maintenance program known as ERIC (the Electronic Registration Information Center), a bipartisan, interstate partnership that helps states share data to keep their voter rolls up-to-date. After conspiracy theories about ERIC flourished, nine GOP-lead states left the program, taking their data with them and weakening the coalition’s efficacy. 

The RNC suit in Michigan, a key battleground state, suggests voter rolls may become a more central part of the GOP’s election law strategy.

The filing occurred the same day NBC News reported that two election lawyers, Charlie Spies and Christina Bobb, were joining the RNC. 

Bobb has been a prominent advocate of the GOP’s baseless claims that the 2020 election was stolen. She will serve as senior counsel for election integrity, while Spies, a longtime lawyer for the GOP, serves as general counsel. 

Speaking to conservative activists in 2021, Spies disputed election conspiracy theories and pushed supporters to adopt election changes that would make the system more palatable to Republicans.

“The deal is early voting is not going away,” he said. “We’ve got to take advantage of that, and telling people not to vote early is cutting your nose off to spite your face. It doesn’t work.”

He continued: “We change the system, make us super confident in it,” he said. “Then encourage people to vote using the laws that we have.”

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