Perhaps the biggest takeaway from President Trump’s unproven allegations about the security of elections is that he’s managed to blur the difference between voting records and the act of voting. Or put another way, it’s a distraction from resolving the challenges in keeping voter registration data accurate and up to date. Trump awkwardly waded into the topic last fall when he insisted millions of fraudulent votes had been cast in California and two other states. No evidence of widespread chicanery existed then, nor has any been brought forward since. At times, it seemed the president was wrongly conflating fraud with a 2012 nonpartisan study that warned of problems with some states’ voter registration lists. Fast forward to last week, when a conservative legal organization insisted that 11 California counties have more registered voters than voting-age citizens. The group refused to share its methodology, and partly based its conclusions on the counties’ lists of “inactive” voters — people who haven’t cast ballots in the past two statewide elections.
Even the best registration list lives in a state of flux. Voters die. They enter prison on a felony conviction and forfeit their right to vote. They move and don’t notify elections officials. “Things change every day, and our voter file is constantly fluid,” said Gail Pellerin, registrar of voters in Santa Cruz County. “It’s real people.”
Keeping California’s lists accurate became easier with the launch of a long–awaited statewide voter database last year. Now, changes are quickly seen in all 58 counties and data imported from state agencies — including the DMV and prisons — helps more easily flag problems.