The Secret World of Voter Purges

For Immediate Release

Institute for Public Accuracy (IPA)
Contact: 

Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020;
or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

The Secret World of Voter Purges

WASHINGTON -

MYRNA PEREZ

WENDY WEISER


Pérez is counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law and the author of the report "Voter Purges."
Weiser is the deputy director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan
Center. The Brennan Center is today releasing one of the first
systematic examinations of voter purging -- the practice of removing
voters from registration lists in order to update state registration
rolls.

The center performed a study of purge practices in twelve states:
Florida, Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New York, Ohio,
Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington, and Wisconsin. The report states that
"election officials across the country are routinely striking millions
of voters from the rolls through a process that is shrouded in secrecy,
prone to error, and vulnerable to manipulation."

Pérez stated: "Purges can be an important way to ensure that voter
rolls are dependable, accurate and up-to-date. Far too frequently,
however, eligible, registered citizens show up to vote and discover
their names have been removed from the voter lists because election
officials are maintaining their voter rolls with little accountability
and wildly varying standards. ... Our report finds the following:
According to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, between 2004 and
2006, thirty-nine states and the District of Columbia reported purging
more than 13 million voters from registration rolls. ... Voter Purges
finds four problematic practices with voter purges that continue to
threaten voters in 2008: purges rely on error-ridden lists; voters are
purged secretly and without notice; bad 'matching' criteria mean that
thousands of eligible voters will be caught up in purges; and
insufficient oversight leaves voters vulnerable to erroneous or
manipulated purges. The report reveals that purge practices vary
dramatically from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, that there is a lack of
consistent protections for voters, and that there are often
opportunities for mischief and mistakes in the purge process."

Weiser added: "The voter rolls are the gateway to voting, and a citizen
typically cannot cast a vote that will count unless his or her name
appears on the rolls. Purges remove names from the voter rolls,
typically preventing wrongfully purged voters from having their votes
counted. Given the close margins by which elections are won, the number
of people wrongfully purged can make a difference. We should not
tolerate purges that are conducted behind closed doors, without public
scrutiny, and without adequate recourse for affected voters."

The report provides some examples of recent purges which were made public:

* In Mississippi earlier this year, a local election official
discovered that another official had wrongly purged 10,000 voters from
her home computer just a week before the presidential primary.

* In Muscogee, Georgia this year, a county official purged 700 people
from the voter lists, supposedly because they were ineligible to vote
due to criminal convictions. The list included people who claimed to
have never even received a parking ticket.

* In Louisiana, including areas hit hard by hurricanes, officials
purged approximately 21,000 voters, ostensibly for registering to vote
in another state, without sufficient voter protections.

* In 2004, Florida planned to remove 48,000 "suspected felons" from its
voter rolls even though many of those identified were in fact eligible
to vote. When the flawed process generated a list of 22,000 African
Americans to be purged and only 61 voters with Hispanic surnames, in
spite of Florida's sizable Hispanic population, it took pressure from
voting rights groups to stop Florida officials from using the purge
list.

 

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