Maricopa County residents have been purged from the voter rolls nearly 1.1 million times since the 2008 election. Nearly half, or 491,944, of the removals happened, as required by state statute, after the Maricopa County Elections Department mails a notice — an early ballot or a voter guide — to a voter and it is returned undelivered by the U.S. Postal Service. If the initial and subsequent notices are undelivered, the individual is designated “inactive.” Inactive voters who do not update their registrations or vote in the following two general elections are removed from the rolls. It’s a policy intended to ensure the rolls include only people who are eligible to vote, and, supporters say, it helps prevent fraud. The remainder of the purges are largely voters who moved out of the county or died.
But an Arizona Republic analysis of Recorder’s Office data since 2008 shows the voter-purge policy isn’t experienced equally across Maricopa County, home to 61 percent of all registered voters in the state. Purges of inactive voters in Maricopa County over the past 10 years have disproportionately affected lower-income communities, where minorities make up a larger share of the population, according to the analysis.
Critics of the county policy say the result is thousands of people who are eligible to vote will run into problems at the polls Tuesday, when they learn they are no longer on the rolls.
The Republic analysis shows that will happen more often to poor and minority voters, groups that are less likely to own a home and are more likely to change addresses.