Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Use It or Lose It Voter Purges are Hot Right Now

"In Cuyahoga County alone, approximately 40,000 individuals were unlawfully purged merely for choosing not to vote, and a disproportionate number of those people came from low-income neighborhoods and communities of color" Andre Washington, President, A. Philip Randolph Institute, Ohio Chapter.

This week, in what has become the GOPers' favorite Voter Suppression tactic du jour, thousands of Alabama Voters were moved to the "inactive voter" list, even if they had voted in the November 2016 Presidential Race! The "use it or lose it" Voter Purge process in Alabama involves the Secretary of State's Office sending Post Cards to Registered Voters. if the Cards come back Twice Undelivered, the Voter is moved to "inactive." The Alabama Secretary of State's Office reports that out of the State's 3.3 Million Voters, 340,162 were moved to the Inactive list this year. That's 10% of Alabama Voters. 

In late January, Alabama spent $825,236 in postage to mail out the 3,249,850 Cards, which sounds like an Inefficient, snail-mail, paper-based, big Government Dollar Program intended to keep a Database current. Going about it in this manner has the very likely Consequence of Undermining the fundamental Civil Rights of possibly hundreds of thousands of Eligible Voters.

They can not be removed from the Rolls until they do not vote in the following two Federal Elections after the Date of the First Post Card. This could be an interested Case, as leaving them on the Roles as Inactive but not Removing them, is not covered by existing Laws.

There has to be a better way for a competent Entity to Maintain Records, and of course there is. These Draconian Purge procedures could be discarded in favor of Registration modernization Reforms like Universal Automatic Voter Registration, which keeps Voter Roles tidy and up-to-date by aggregating Data on a Rolling basis from State Agencies and Government Records like: Change of Address Forms, DMV Activity, Death Records, Tax Payments, College Enrollments, and other Routine Business. That's why as of July 2017, Nine States have adopted some form of Automatic Registration and Illinois is poised to become the Tenth. The initial post-2016 Election Results from the earliest Automatic Registration Policy implemented in Oregon have been very successful. In light of that, the failure of so many States to adopt this obvious Reform begs the question, Why?

Sadly, this Purge process is being Replicated around the U.S. In July, the ACLU sent a Letter in response to a similar process in Georgia to GA Secretary of State Brian Kemp alleging that Purge Notices sent to Voters who moved within the same County, Violate the National Voter Registration Act of 1993. Similarly, the "supplemental purge process" in Ohio has been the subject of Litigation for several months. 

Being moved to "inactive status", as is the case in Alabama, doesn't mean that these voters can't cast a Ballot, but there are procedural hurdles to overcome like Updating/Verifying Voter Identification Information and ensuring that these Legitimate Voters actually Receive and Cast a Ballot. Undoubtedly, the separate Inactive List and additional hurdles can cause Confusion or Intimidation. Add in a dash of poorly Trained Poll Workers and you have all the ingredients for a New way for GOPers to Suppress the Vote. 

But this is not happening in a vacuum. As reported last week, there is a Federal Dimension to this Assault as well... Jeff Session's Justice Department has just Reversed course in an Ohio Case before the Supreme Court. That Case, Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute, et al., deals with the issue of whether Ohio can Remove from its Voter Rolls hundreds of thousands of so called "infrequent voters," merely because they have not Voted in six years. "Ohio has purged 2 million voters from 2011 to 2016, more than any other state, including 1.2 million for infrequent voting." from Mother Jones. While the Obama Administration DOJ had opposed "use it or lose it" Voter Purges, Political Appointees in the Trump Justice Department Reversed Course. The New Court Filings were Signed by Trump Appointees, but did not include the Signature of "a single Career Attorney in the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division." 

Faced with Demographic challenges to GOP Electoral Prospects, GOP-Dominated State Legislatures are attempting to retain Power "not by broadening their appeal but by shrinking the electorate." When it comes to fundamental Civil Rights, any bias in a Democracy must be in favor of encouraging Voting, not Blanket Purges of Voters found to be Eligible in the recent past.

Under Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), States are Required to make a reasonable effort to Remove the Names of Ineligible Voters from Official Lists due to:

- The Death of the Voter

- A Change of Address of the Voter: Removal if to another State, Modify the Lists if to a different Voting District

- The Removal of Noncitizens that are Registered to Vote.

CLICK HERE to read the complete Section 8 text.

Reading Section 8, (d) Removal of Names, Ohio meets the NVRA Rules for Federal Elections. But I do not see anything about moving a Voter to the Inactive Rolls and the NVRA doesn't cover State Voting.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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