Second Mississippi county agrees to trim voter rolls after lawsuit by conservative group

JACKSON, Mississippi (AP) — A second county in south Mississippi has agreed to clean up its inflated voter rolls after being sued by a conservative group that said the county failed to purge the names of people who had died, moved away or been convicted of disenfranchising felonies.

In a consent decree filed this past Friday in federal court, Jefferson Davis County said that by Jan. 31, it will identify people on the rolls who are no longer eligible to vote.

An Oct. 10 document from the secretary of state’s office shows the county has almost as many registered voters as it has residents of voting age.

The American Civil Rights Union, a conservative group based in Alexandria, Va., sued Jefferson Davis and Walthall counties in April, saying that both, at the time, had more registered voters than residents who were at least 18. The lawsuits said that under the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, better known as Motor Voter, counties have an obligation to keep accurate voter rolls for federal elections.

In response to the lawsuit, Walthall County agreed in September to clean up its inflated voter rolls, and the county is making progress, according to the latest document from the secretary of state. The county had 11,219 voting-age residents in 2012. It had 12,752 registered voters on Sept. 4 and 12,421 on Oct. 10.

Jefferson Davis County had 9,253 voting-age residents in 2012. It had 8,792 registered voters on Oct. 10.

Mississippi has long had problems with inflated voter rolls. The Associated Press reported in October 2008 that 29 of the 82 counties had more registered voters than residents 18 or older. That is now down to 10 counties, according to an Oct. 10 spreadsheet released Monday by the secretary of state’s office.

Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, a Republican, created a statewide electronic registry that county officials can use to check for duplicate voter registrations. In recent years, some counties have used the list to purge voter rolls after people move away.

The American Civil Rights Union is not affiliated with — and is sharply critical of — the American Civil Liberties Union, the individual rights advocacy group.

The American Civil Rights Union has a board that includes Edwin Meese, who was attorney general under President Ronald Reagan. On its website, the group supports state laws that require voters to show photo identification at the polls, and it has an “election integrity defense project” that includes the two lawsuits about inflated voter rolls in Mississippi.

The three attorneys who filed the lawsuits in Walthall and Jefferson Davis counties — J. Christian Adams of Alexandria, Va. ; H. Christopher Coates of Charleston, S.C.; and Henry Ross of Eupora, Miss. — are former U.S. Justice Department attorneys.

“Corrupted voter rolls have to be fixed so Americans can once again have faith in our elections,” Adams said in a news release Monday. “Step one for voter fraud is to have corrupt rolls.”

The American Civil Rights Union has said it could sue Texas counties for having inflated voter rolls. Adams said Attorney General Eric Holder should challenge local governments that have inflated voter rolls, and he criticized Holder for challenging a voter-identification law in Texas.

The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

An attorney who represented Jefferson Davis County, Robert E. Sanders of Jackson, did not immediately return a call Monday.