As New Yorkers go to the polls to vote in state primary elections Thursday, some voters are finding there’s no record of their registration. That includes some prominent media figures: New York Magazine writer Rebecca Traister and HuffPost Editor in Chief Lydia Polgreen were among those who tweeted their names were missing from the rolls at their local polling places — meaning they can’t cast a regular ballot. They were far from the only ones. Others tweeted about their experiences having to sign an affidavit and cast a provisional ballot for the first time in years. Local New York publication Gothamist reported “mass confusion” at some polling stations. The stakes are high this year — there are contested primaries for major statewide offices, including governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general. People whose names aren’t found on the rolls can still vote, they just have to sign a sworn affidavit validating their identify before they can cast a provisional ballot.
The story read like something straight out of Stalinist Russia. But this casualty list was in the United States in the 21st century. Virginia: 41,637 purged. Florida: 182,000 purged. Indiana: 481,235 purged. Georgia: 591,549 purged. Ohio: two million purged. With the flick of a bureaucratic wrist, millions of Americans—veterans, congressional representatives, judges, county officials, and most decidedly minorities—were erased. To be clear, they still had their lives, but in the course of simply trying to cast a ballot, they soon learned that as far as the government was concerned, they did not exist. They were electorally dead. Their very right to vote had disappeared into the black hole of voter roll purges, Interstate Crosscheck, and felony disfranchisement. Some of the walking dead were viscerally “angry.” Others fumed, “This is screwed up!” Most felt “like an outcast,” “empty and unimportant,” and one man was actually reduced to “crying right there in the county elections office.” These were the latest casualties in the war on democracy.
U.S. citizens across the country soon will vote on all 435 seats in the House of Representatives, for 35 U.S. senators and three dozen governorships. The House of Representatives and possibly the Senate are up for grabs. Given the high stakes, voters would do well to check at least a month ahead of time with their local board of elections to see if they’re still registered to vote. This is especially true for people of color. The reason is that millions could find their right to vote challenged or taken away under suspicion that they’re trying to vote more than once, largely due to 26 states using the Interstate Voter Crosscheck system, which compares lists of voters in different states and challenges the registration of those whose names come up more than once.
National: Many states are purging voters from the rolls – On election day, stay away | The Economist
In 1965 President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act. Among other things, this required places with a history of discriminating against non-white voters to obtain federal approval before changing the way they conducted elections. In the ensuing decades it narrowed, and in some cases reversed, racial gaps in voting. Congress repeatedly reauthorised the Act, most recently in 2006 for 25 years. But in 2013 the Supreme Court gutted the pre-clearance provision. Since then states that had been bound by it have purged voters from their rolls at a greater rate than other states. That is part of a dramatic rise in voter purges in recent years. Many on the right say such purges and other policies are essential to ensuring electoral integrity. Others see a darker purpose.
A federal judge invalidated part of North Carolina elections law that allows one voter to challenge another’s residency, a provision that activist groups used to scrub thousands of names from rolls ahead of the 2016 elections. U.S. District Judge Loretta Biggs said in an order signed Wednesday that the residency challenges are pre-empted by the 1993 federal “motor voter” law aimed at expanding voting opportunities. The National Voter Registration Act “encourages the participation of qualified voters in federal elections by mandating certain procedures designed to reduce the risk that a voter’s registration might be erroneously canceled. Defendants’ conduct contravened these procedures,” Biggs wrote.
Voting Blogs: Lawsuit Seeks Public Info About Controversial Voting Purge Letter | Brennan Center for Justice
The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law is suing the Justice Department today for refusing to turn over documents related to a controversial letter DOJ sent last year, which sought detailed information about how states maintain their voter rolls. Voting rights groups are concerned that it could be a prelude to pressuring states to engage in aggressive voter purges — the often-flawed process of deleting names from voter registration lists. “The public has a right to know why the Justice Department sent this letter, and what information it received from states in response,” said Jonathan Brater, counsel in the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program. “The Justice Department should be fighting to protect the voting rights of all Americans. We are concerned, though, that this letter may be part of a broader effort to undermine those rights, and we are going to court to find out.”
As a key deadline approaches next week on updating statewide voter rolls before the November election, it appears a controversial data-mining operation mostly used by red states to purge legitimate voters is withering, or at least dormant, in 2018. The Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck program, known as Crosscheck, has been blasted in the press, academia,legal briefs, and federal court rulings for sloppy analytics that generate tens or hundreds of thousands of suspected duplicate voter registrations in member states. (It uses few data specifics, including common names, producing false positives.) Some of those states have used Crosscheck’s analyses to turn a bland voter roll bookkeeping process (removing dead people, people who moved) into a partisan cudgel. This June, a federal district court issued a restraining order against Indiana election officials to not use Crosscheck to prematurely purge its voter rolls.
Ohioans who have been purged from state voting rolls since 2011 will be allowed to cast provisional ballots in Tuesday’s special U.S. House election between Republican Troy Balderson and Democrat Danny O’Connor. Secretary of State Jon Husted instructed county boards of elections on Tuesday to accept the ballots of those purged for failing to vote during a six-year span and failing to respond to notices asking them to verify their status. Their votes will be counted after the election once their purging from voting rolls and other information is confirmed. Husted’s office could not estimate how many purged voters could cast ballots on Tuesday. The directive was the result of a federal court order following mediation with plaintiffs and after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in their suit, according to Husted’s memo to county election officials. The plaintiffs reversed course after an earlier agreement and asked that those purged be allowed to vote on Aug. 7. The court agreed.
In the last presidential election cycle, almost half a million more people in Virginia were purged from the voter rolls than the previous election cycle. That change comes even as election officials used a faulty database to delete voters who allegedly moved. Jonathan Brater at the Brennan Center for Justice says Virginia is one of four states that has conducted illegal purges. “In recent years, we have seen Virginia attempting to remove higher numbers of suspected non-citizens from the voter rolls. But it turns out that many of those people actually are citizens.”
On April 19, 2016, thousands of eligible Brooklyn voters dutifully showed up to cast their ballots in the presidential primary, only to find their names missing from the voter lists. An investigation by the New York state attorney general found that New York City’s Board of Elections had improperly deleted more than 200,000 names from the voter rolls. In June 2016, the Arkansas secretary of state provided a list to the state’s 75 county clerks suggesting that more than 7,700 names be removed from the rolls because of supposed felony convictions. That roster was highly inaccurate; it included people who had never been convicted of a felony, as well as persons with past convictions whose voting rights had been restored. And in Virginia in 2013, nearly 39,000 voters were removed from the rolls when the state relied on a faulty database to delete voters who allegedly had moved out of the commonwealth. Error rates in some counties ran as high as 17 percent.