29 July 2008

Yes They Can: Purging Voter Rolls

Obama Campaign Registers New Voters, States Purge Old Ones

As Obama campaign workers toil all across the country, looking for the elusive and often uninterested voting age adults who are not registered to vote in the November election, the state election boards across the country labor to purge their voter registration lists.

According to AlterNet, The Department of Justice's Voting Section appears to be pressuring 10 states to purge voter rolls. The 10 states receiving Voting Section purge letters are Iowa, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Vermont. Voter roll purges, if incorrectly done, can be a factor in determining election outcomes -- particularly in tight races.

Voting Section Chief John Tanner called for the purges in letters sent this spring under an arcane provision in the National Voter Registration Act, better known as the Motor Voter law, whose purpose is to expand voter registration. The identical letters notify states that 10 percent or more of their election jurisdictions have problematic voter rolls. It tells states to report "the subsequent removal from rolls of persons no longer eligible to vote."

In addition, Kansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, have been contacted by national voting rights group because those states appear to be purging registered voters.

Erin Ferns over at MyDD reports "under the National Voter Registration Act, states are required to contact voters directly through forwardable mail. If the voter does not respond, the state must wait two federal elections before removing the voter from the rolls. However, many states have begun to compare their voter rolls with those of neighboring states and pro-actively canceling a voter's registration based on a positive 'match' rather than following the list maintenance procedures of NVRA."

Ferns notes "The emerging trend of state compacts to compare voter databases and engage in aggressive efforts to purge their voter rolls is troubling for both its opacity - the public is not informed of the criteria for being purged nor are purged voters offered the chance to remedy the situation - and its reliance on strict matching criteria. Large databases are riddled with errors, therefore the sole reliance on exact matches virtually guarantees that legal voters will be knocked off the rolls and denied the right to vote."

Why is this such a big deal?

Because the Obama campaign has maintained for the last month or so that many of our preconceived notions about “red states” and “blue states” will be shattered in November as African Americans make their way to the polls in record numbers. If the prevailing trend in the Democratic primaries holds true, Obama can expect 90 to 95 percent of African American voters to cast a ballot for him. Combine this statistic with a substantially increased black electorate, and many of the electoral college votes won by Republicans are in jeopardy, particularly in the states that have been won by less than five points in the last election – Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Nevada, and Virginia.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, I knew what was happening in Mississippi, but I had no idea that it was coming from the Justice Department or that it was so widespread.

    I just linked to this post.


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