This story was updated to include comments from the N.C. State Board of Elections.

The N.C. State Board of Elections and the Public Interest Legal Foundation have reached a settlement for the board to disclose records relating to foreigners registering and voting.

PILF is touting the settlement as a win for election transparency and the National Voter Registration Act, which requires election officials to allow inspection of all records related to the maintenance of the voter rolls. 

The state elections board, PILF says in a news release, agreed to settle the case after a federal appellate court ruled that the registration act requires disclosure of documents relating to noncitizens registering and voting. The terms of the settlement also included an agreement to pay a portion of PILF’s attorneys fees.

“This is a huge win for transparency in North Carolina’s elections,” said PILF President Christian Adams. “The public has a right to know about election vulnerabilities. These records conclusively show that foreigners have been registering to vote and voting in North Carolina elections. It is a shame our efforts to disclose these records were met with such resistance by election officials. Real foreign interference in American elections happens when foreigners cast ballots. This victory demonstrates that changes to national voter registration policies are needed to prevent this from happening.”

PILF, the release says, filed the lawsuit against the elections board in June 2019 for failing to disclose records showing noncitizens’ registration and voting. The lower court dismissed the complaint, saying that PILF could not obtain the records. In May 2021, PILF won its appeal to the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

In response, Patrick Gannon, elections board spokesman, said:

“The bipartisan State Board of Elections voted on Jan. 20 to settle the Public Interest Legal Foundation v. Bell lawsuit. The vote was unanimous by all members present. Under the settlement, the State Board will provide PILF various records about audit processes and list maintenance activities related to non-U.S. citizens, in exchange for a complete dismissal of the lawsuit.

“Importantly, the settlement provides that the State Board may redact all information that would allow PILF to personally identify any individual registrant who was being reviewed for potential improper registration, including names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, phone numbers, email addresses, street addresses, signatures, and identifying numbers used for registration and voting purposes. PILF had sought this personal information in the litigation.

“The State Board’s goal all along was protecting the privacy of individuals who were only suspected of improper registration. The majority of such individuals were determined to be properly registered citizens, upon further review. Both a federal district court and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the Public Interest Legal Foundation’s argument that they should get such personal information.

“The State Board will provide the records to PILF, but redact all personally identifying information. The monetary settlement was for $5,000, an amount unanimously approved by the bipartisan State Board members present.

“An important context to this lawsuit is that, at the time PILF requested the records at issue in the case, the State Board was under an order from a federal judge not to disclose many of those records. That order was lifted after this case had already been litigated in district court and on appeal. The settlement agreement explicitly disclaims that the State Board violated any law.”