The International Program – Philippines

At the invitation of World Learning’s Visitor Exchange Program, under the auspices of the U.S. State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program, a meeting between a representative of Judicial Watch and a top election official in the Philippines went forward on May 9, 2012, at Judicial Watch’s headquarters in Washington, DC. The project for the Philippines, “Preparing for Elections: Ensuring Fairness,” as outlined by the Department of State, set forth the following professional objectives:    Explore how the United States ensures a credible democratic process at all stages of elections; Provide an overview of voter registration, selection and training of election officials, counting votes and managing contested results; and Gain an understanding of how voters’ trust in the system plays a role in the health of any democracy. The U.S. Department of State’s background notes for the Philippines report that “U.S.Philippine relations are based on [a] shared history and commitment to democratic principles . . . . The Philippines modeled its governmental institutions on those of the United States and continues to share a commitment to democracy and human rights. At the most fundamental level of bilateral relations, human links continue to form a strong bridge between the two countries. There are an estimated four million Americans of Philippine ancestry in the United States, and more than 300,000 American citizens in the Philippines.” Judicial Watch was asked to discuss its 2012 Election Integrity Project and “its efforts to ensure fair elections by pressuring states and localities to comply with the National Voter Registration Act.” And, as set forth in its Mission Statement, “through its educational endeavors, Judicial Watch advocates high standards of ethics and morality in the nation’s public life and seeks to ensure that political and judicial officials do not abuse the powers entrusted to them by the American people. Judicial Watch fulfills its educational mission

The International Program—Philippines
through litigation, investigations, and public outreach.” The International Program is an integral part of its educational program. Judicial Watch’s president, Tom Fitton, met with the Philippine election official and provided a brief overview of the organization’s corporate structure, mission, and current oversight activities concerning election integrity. Mr. Fitton described Judicial Watch as a “watchdog” and said that it functions much like a charity in that it is supported in most part by the private donations of its members. Mr. Fitton discussed the number one investigative tool used by Judicial Watch in its oversight mission: the federal Freedom of Information Act and similar open records laws at the state and local levels. By law, he said, Judicial Watch is able to file suit in court to force the release of records and other materials (not covered by exemptions) from agencies of the federal government, with the exception of Congress, the courts, and certain parts of the Executive Office of the President. However, there are other provisions in federal, state, and local laws that also allow for a private right of action, such as whistleblower laws and taxpayer standing. And the National Voter Registration Act is a federal law that allows private parties the right to sue states that do not clean up their voter rolls. Of particular interest to the Philippine election official was how Judicial Watch, a nongovernmental organization, was able to provide oversight of the election process in the United States. Mr. Fitton discussed the National Voter Registration Act (aka “Motor Voter Law”) and its two-pronged approach to help ensure the integrity of elections: Section 7, to make voter registration available at State motor vehicle and other public assistance agencies; and Section 8, to clean up voter registration rolls by removing the names of voters who have moved, died, or are no longer eligible to vote. Mr. Fitton indicated that these two sections of the NVRA were designed to work hand-inhand, but the Obama Justice Department has chosen to aggressively enforce only one of the Act’s provisions by pushing the registration of public assistance recipients (aka Obama’s “Food Stamp Army”), a key voter demographic for Democrats. The result of this lawless approach has been an increase in the number of invalid voter registrations, such as happened in Colorado following the 2008 and 2010 election seasons where invalid voter registration forms were found to be “four times the national average.”

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The International Program—Philippines
Mr. Fitton told the Philippine delegate that Judicial Watch has found at least 12 states with counties that have more registered voters on their rolls than warranted by the voting age population. He said Judicial Watch, joined by True the Vote and a former Justice Department official, launched the 2012 Election Integrity Project to do the job the Justice Department has refused to do: clean up voter registration rolls. The visiting delegate told Mr. Fitton that the Philippine Commission on Elections (COMELEC) has had great success in finding and removing over 700,000 duplicate voters from their voter rolls using an innovative voter identification system. Once an applicant’s identity and residence is verified by a signed photo ID, the applicant’s biometrics (digital images of the applicant’s photograph, fingerprints and signature) are digitally captured. To the election official’s surprise, Mr. Fitton told him that the Obama administration and the Democrats, in general, have fought the implementation of even the most basic requirement of presenting a photo ID, with the timeworn argument that such a requirement is a ruse to disenfranchise a certain color or class of people. Mr. Fitton said conservatives, who favor less government intrusion themselves and may object to the use of biometrics, consider a photo ID—a standard component of most business transactions today—to be an unremarkable, but essential requirement in the prevention of voter fraud. Judicial Watch and its partners, True the Vote and the Election Law Center, are committed to the task of forcing states to clean up their voter registration rolls in an effort to ensure the integrity of the election process so that only those eligible to vote will vote in the next presidential election.

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