Several more-established conservative legal groups mask themselves with the branding of well-known pro–voting rights organizations. There’s the American Constitutional Rights Union (ACRU; formerly the American Civil Rights Union), which could easily be confused with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). There’s also the Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF), not to be mistaken for the Public Interest Law Fund. And there’s the Lawyers Democracy Fund, which often refers to itself in emails as LDF, the same nickname for the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund.
“This is consistent with a naming trend where we see conservative anti-voter groups trying to co-opt the names of existing pro-voting groups,” said Eliza Sweren-Becker, counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice, in an interview with the Prospect. “There is a concerted effort among these organizations … And they are bringing the same types of claims across the country.”…
While these groups do not technically work together, they share similar views about mass voter fraud in their rhetoric and legal arguments, inside and outside of the courtroom. For instance, in December 2019, PILF filed a lawsuit pushing for the City of Detroit to “properly clean its voter rolls,” which could be interpreted as purging people’s names from the official registered-voters list. It claimed, based on census data, that about 2,500 people were dead, almost 5,000 names were doubled or tripled, and about 16,500 should be removed because the date of registration was missing.
PILF voluntarily dismissed the case on June 30. But that didn’t stop the Honest Elections Project from supporting a suit filed on June 9 against the Michigan secretary of state based on the same premise, with a press release using the same language, asking Michigan to “clean up” the voter rolls. The plaintiff in this case is Tony Daunt, whose legal team includes William S. Consovoy, the personal attorney to President Donald Trump, along with two other lawyers from his practice, as well as Jason Torchinsky, who is a contributor to the Federalist Society and a member of the Republican National Lawyers Association.
It’s also not unusual for these organizations to rescind their claims when a win on the merits appears unlikely. Often the evidence isn’t clear when it’s presented in court, according to several experts. In one Wisconsin case from 2014, the judge wrote in his decision that “[s]ome of the ‘evidence’ of voter-impersonation fraud is downright goofy, if not paranoid.” In this case over voter IDs, Frank v. Walker, the defense argued that voter ID laws would stop buses from transporting foreigners to vote in U.S. elections, though there was no proof provided. More to the point, there is little to no evidence that there are people trying to vote under a false identity, the kind of fraud that would be prevented with an ID law.
“Whether it’s PILF, or the Honest Elections Project, or the ACRU, there’s a pattern that is repeated across these jurisdictions to try to bully or compel these underfunded, under-resourced local officials into purging their rolls when that is not necessary and it’s certainly not what’s required by the National Voter Registration Act,” Sweren-Becker explains.