By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. government on Thursday asked a federal judge in Brooklyn, New York to let it join a private lawsuit seeking to stop New York City's Board of Elections from improperly purging voters from the city's registration rolls.
Common Cause New York, a nonprofit that seeks government accountability, had sued the Board of Elections on Nov. 3, seeking to restore voting rights to thousands of Democratic voters in Brooklyn who had been mysteriously dropped from the rolls between November 2015 and the April 2016 primary election.
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In a Thursday court filing, the U.S. Department of Justice said the Board of Elections stripped roughly 117,000 people of their voting rights solely because they had not voted since 2008, and not responded to letters from the city to confirm their eligibility.
The department said this effort to "clean up" Brooklyn's voter rolls, as the Board of Elections' chief clerk in the borough put it, violated Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, which requires accurate and nondiscriminatory voter registration lists in federal elections.
It also said that despite taking "proactive" steps to fix violations and avoid a recurrence, the Board of Elections had not done enough.
"More is necessary to reach full compliance with the law," Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department's civil rights division, said in a statement.
The U.S. government typically joins a private lawsuit when it believes the plaintiff's case is likely to succeed. It wants the Board of Elections to take all necessary steps to comply with Section 8.
"We are reviewing the issues raised in this litigation and will work with the Department of Justice toward a resolution," Nick Paolucci, a spokesman for the New York City Law Department, which represents the Board of Elections, said in an email.
Common Cause New York did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
City Comptroller Scott Stringer said his office had been examining the Board of Elections since he ordered an audit last April, after irregularities surfaced.
"The bottom line is this: People have simply lost confidence in the BOE," Stringer said in an emailed statement. "We must both protect and strengthen the right to vote."
The case is Common Cause New York et al v. Board of Elections in the City of New York et al, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York, No. 16-06122.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Andrew Hay)