Report Cites 'Flawed' Voter Purges as Unfair
August 24, 2023
There are many good reasons for states to update their voter rolls in preparation for elections, but a new report contended many are too zealous about it, jeopardizing some people's right to vote.
When people die or move out-of-state, their names may be removed from voter rolls. However, the report from the democracy and economy think tank Dēmos found more than 19 million voters were "purged" from the rolls between the 2020 and 2022 general elections, and said more than one-quarter were dropped for flawed reasons, like inactivity.
Angela Hanks, chief of programs for Dēmos, said they evaluated 10 states' voter removal laws and safeguards. Michigan scored 52% for its removal policies.
"The impact is often disproportionately on voters of color, on naturalized citizens, and on other marginalized or underrepresented communities," Hanks pointed out. "That is really why we are looking into this, is because when states pursue these flawed practices, it means that people who are eligible to vote can't vote, and that is a problem for our democracy."
Eighty of Michigan's 83 counties voted to pass Proposal 3 in 2018, by the advocacy group Promote the Vote. It allows for same-day voter registration along with other voting access in the state, indicating widespread support for increasing access to the ballot.
Purging practices vary by state, and the Dēmos report finds no state has a great model to prevent erroneously removing eligible voters.
Hanks noted Dēmos also looked at the safeguards to give people some recourse if they were incorrectly removed from the voter rolls.
"And the most harmful are those 'use it or lose it' laws -- the 'if you don't vote in the Federal election, we'll take you off the rolls,' -- that remove individuals for nonvoting," Hanks contended. "Those laws are especially concerning, because again they tend to block access to people who can't make it to every federal election. And those reasons could be really anything."
Michigan scored well, at 80%, for its voter safeguards. The state allws same-day registration, both during the early voting period and on Election Day, giving voters who may have been erroneously removed from the rolls the ability to cast a regular ballot. But voters cannot do so at the polling place; only at the county clerk's office.