Stopping Purges as Voter Registration Deadlines Hit

by Wade Rathke

October 5, 2020

New Orleans   We’re on the countdown to the election now. October 5th marks the last voter registration day for the majority of states. The flipping of pages on the calendar from now until Election Day on November 5th is a march towards the end of registration for all but those states with same day registration. Millions of votes are already marked, as mailed ballots pour into election commissions at record levels, because of both the fear of mischief and the scourge of the pandemic.

As part of the Voter Purge Project, ACORN and Labor Neighbor Research & Training Center joined with the Ohio Voter Project to release a report last week on voter purges in a number of states. Having processed the voter files from more than fifteen states over the last year, VPP conducted a number of tests on the accuracy of voter purges. The results were distressing. More than 16% of the Georgia list was inaccurate. More than 30% of the North Carolina list was faulty. The Michigan list revealed contacts for 70% of the list so that they could have been verified directly. Phone calling the Florida list produced a high percentage of errors there as well. Wisconsin’s bipartisan election commission has been in court battles refusing to purge because they have acknowledged the inaccuracy of their list. In Ohio, a year ago we restored voting rights after establishing that 20% of the list was incorrectly purged. Meanwhile election officials in most of the states have been resistant to transparency in explaining the methodology behind their purges, making them even less credible.

The conclusion was obvious. There must be a better way to “clean” the lists of dead and relocated voters. We note now that in checking absentee ballots some states are actually calling voters to allow them to correct errors or sign ballots ahead of the election deadlines. Why not do something similar with the harvested phone numbers and email address, often not shared with the public, to determine purges or give them a more thorough review?

The report also noted that the Supreme Court decision in 2018 that greenlighted purges also, ridiculously depended on postcard returns. How 20th century is that? A citizen cannot lose their voting franchise by not voting. They always have the inherent right to vote. The Supreme Court though said essentially that if they had not voted in several elections AND did not return a postcard affirming the correctness of their address, then they could be legitimately purged. Who keeps up with regular mail and uses postcards still?

In this highly contentious election and given the long campaign of voter suppression as political parties try to hang onto their positions and power, despite a changing electorate, purges remain a key weapon in their arsenal, now matter how faulty. This has to change.

Wade Rathke is founder and chief organizer of ACORN and ACORN International. You can find Wade’s recent past posts here Chief Organizer Reports. And you can link to his website here Chief Organizer ACORN/ACORN International.

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