Campaign Legal Center (CLC) filed suit against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for its failure to produce documents in response to CLC’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Request.
On August 31, 2018, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina (USAO) issued subpoenas on behalf of ICE to the North Carolina State Board of Elections and 44 county boards of elections (collectively, NCSBE) and the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles (NCDMV).
The subpoenas sought “any and all North Carolina voter registration applications and supporting documents” from 2010 through 2018. North Carolina election official estimated that these requests would encompass “millions of documents” and described the volume of the requests as “the most exhaustive on record” and “so massive as to be absurd.”
Public reporting suggests that these subpoenas are related to a continuation of the now-defunct Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity (PACEI), which sought to procure evidence to support longstanding claims of widespread voter fraud asserted by its vice chair, former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. After PACEI was disbanded in January 2018, Kobach suggested that its mission and functions should be assumed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
ICE is a component agency of DHS that investigates allegations of illegal voting by noncitizens. The USAO has been aggressively targeting foreign-born North Carolina residents in its efforts to unearth rare cases of voter fraud. USAO and ICE’s pursuit of this information is consistent with a broader national pattern of overzealous pursuit of (largely phantom) non-citizen voting, which has repeatedly resulted in federal courts overturning discriminatory conduct by government officials.
The deadline for production of these documents was originally set for September 25, 2018, but early that month, the USAO postponed the deadline for compliance to January 2019 while they negotiated with the North Carolina Attorney General to narrow the scope of the document requests.
On October 2, 2018, CLC submitted a FOIA Request to ICE requesting documents related to ICE’s communications with other federal agencies, external organizations, or individuals regarding ICE’s attempts to acquire voter registration data in North Carolina. ICE failed to respond or even acknowledge CLC’s Request until December 7, 2018—over two months after the date of the Request. Over the next several months, CLC followed up with ICE no less than five times, and yet ICE has failed to provide a single responsive document or an expected timeline for compliance with CLC’s request.
CLC is filing suit to ensure that ICE and the USAO’s actions are not inappropriately driven by political motivations, and that North Carolinians’ voter registration information remains protected and secure.