States Illegally Take ‘Tens of Thousands’ off Voters Off Rolls
States’ Actions to Block Voters Appear Illegal
Tens of thousands of eligible voters in at least six swing states have been removed from the rolls or have been blocked from registering in ways that appear to violate federal law, according to a review of state records and Social Security data by The New York Times.
The actions do not seem to be coordinated by one party or the other, nor do they appear to be the result of election officials intentionally breaking rules, but are apparently the result of mistakes in the handling of the registrations and voter files as the states tried to comply with a 2002 federal law, intended to overhaul the way elections are run.
Still, because Democrats have been more aggressive at registering new voters this year, according to state election officials, any heightened screening of new applications may affect their party’s supporters disproportionately. The screening or trimming of voter registration lists in the six states — Colorado, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Nevada and North Carolina — could also result in problems at the polls on Election Day: people who have been removed from the rolls are likely to show up only to be challenged by political party officials or election workers, resulting in confusion, long lines and heated tempers. Some states allow such voters to cast provisional ballots. But they are often not counted because they require added verification.
Although much attention this year has been focused on the millions of new voters being added to the rolls by the candidacy of Senator Barack Obama, there has been far less notice given to the number of voters being dropped from those same rolls.
States have been trying to follow the Help America Vote Act of 2002 and remove the names of voters who should no longer be listed; but for every voter added to the rolls in the past two months in some states, election officials have removed two, a review of the records shows.
The six swing states seem to be in violation of federal law in two ways. Michigan and Colorado are removing voters from the rolls within 90 days of a federal election, which is not allowed except when voters die, notify the authorities that they have moved out of state, or have been declared unfit to vote. Indiana, Nevada, North Carolina and Ohio seem to be improperly using Social Security data to verify registration applications for new voters.
In addition to the six swing states, three more states appear to be violating federal law. Alabama and Georgia seem to be improperly using Social Security information to screen registration applications from new voters. And Louisiana appears to have removed thousands of voters after the federal deadline for taking such action.
This is indeed problematic and, because it involves state action, it’s especially so. It differs from the allegations against ACORN, which is apparently incentivizing people to commit registration fraud, in that problem here appears to be bureaucratic incompetence and/or overzealousness in the pursuit of good intentions. But it’s nonetheless a bad outcome. Election fraud is a mostly theoretical problem in the United States and these measures are causing far, far more harm than good.
It seems to me that combining two measures highly unpopular with each of the major political parties would solve a lot of this mess. Why not simply do away with voter registration altogether while requiring the presentation of a government-issued, address bearing identification card at the polls? A standard drivers’ license would demonstrate that one is 1) of age and 2) lives in the state/precinct/ward, etc. Localities that exclude felons would have to come up with some way of encoding that information on the card in a way that protects privacy, I suppose, but it shouldn’t be that complicated.