Houston photographer Lynn Lane has voted in every general election and primary over the last five years. He hasn’t changed his address, so he was stunned this year to receive an official letter warning him that he might soon be erased from the rolls. Lane was one of 4,000 voters whose registrations were personally challenged by a single Republican, Alan Vera, who chairs the Harris County GOP’s “Ballot Security Committee.” This sort of individual challenge is illegal in some states, but Texas law permits it. Republicans blamed the county’s election registrar, a Democrat, for automatically suspending the registrations of 1,700 of those voters — but not before Vera boasted on his Facebook page about what he was up to: Voters whose registrations were suspended for failure to return a confirmation postcard would have to cast provisional ballots, which are “reviewed by the Ballot board,” he wrote, “and I appoint all Republican members of that board.” His “project,” he added, “could make a big difference in the November election results.” Stories like Lane’s are becoming all too familiar to a growing number of American voters, who are being dropped from the rolls at a rapid clip, particularly in states with histories of voter discrimination. Such purges are the new face of voter suppression, civil rights advocates say. Unlike the Jim Crow laws of yore, which blocked access to the rolls with tests and taxes, voter purges take registered voters — often, voters of color — and make them disappear. And unlike voter ID laws, which at least give voters advanced warning, purges can be sudden, silent, untraceable, and irremediable.
“The big challenge with purges is that they tend to happen in somebody’s office outside of sunlight, with somebody stroking a few keys on the keyboard,” says Myrna Pérez, deputy director of democracy program at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice. “And that makes it really hard to know that anyone has been impacted until they go to the polls. And by that point, it is often too late.”
Everyone agrees that election officials should regularly scrub their rolls of voters who have died, moved elsewhere, or have lost the right to vote to a felony conviction. But purges have a long history of being used to suppress the vote. Even the practice of keeping voter lists originates with post-Civil War efforts to reduce registration among African Americans in the South and immigrants flocking to industrial urban centers. And while death, relocation or felony conviction rates are not dramatically increasing these days, voter purges are way up.
Full Article: The Amazing Disappearing Voter – Talking Points Memo.