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Voter Purging Gone Wrong In The USA…

Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Posted in: American Politics

Jane sent me this article a couple of days ago, and I can’t tell you how horrified I was when I read it.

Here’s the article in full for those of you who can’t be arsed to follow the link:

Ezra Klein, editor of The American Prospect writes:

It’s baffling that a country that so prides itself on being a democracy doesn’t take the legitimacy of its democratic process more seriously. A good example is vote purging. “Voter registration lists, also called voter rolls, are the gateway to voting. A citizen typically cannot cast a vote that will count unless her name appears on the voter registration rolls.

Yet state and local officials regularly remove — or ‘purge’ — citizens from voter rolls. In fact, thirty-nine states and the District of Columbia reported purging more than 13 million voters from registration rolls between 2004 and 2006. Purges, if done properly, are an important way to ensure that voter rolls are dependable, accurate, and up-to-date. Precise and carefully conducted purges can remove duplicate names, and people who have moved, died, or are otherwise ineligible.” The problem, as this Brennan Center report concludes, is that our voter purges are not being done properly. Not even close:

Over the past several years, every single purge list the Brennan Center has reviewed has been flawed. In 2004, for example, Florida planned to remove 48,000 “suspected felons” from its voter rolls.

Many of those identified were in fact eligible to vote. The flawed process generated a list of 22,000 African Americans to be purged, but only 61 voters with Hispanic surnames, notwithstanding Florida’s sizable Hispanic population.

To compound the problem, the purge list over-represented African Americans and mistakenly included thousands who had had their voting rights restored under Florida law. Under pressure from voting rights groups, Florida ordered officials to stop using the purge list. To compound the problem, the purge list over-represented African Americans and mistakenly included thousands who had had their voting rights restored under Florida law.

In New Jersey in 2005, the Brennan Center worked with a political science professor to analyze a purge list prepared by a political party using “matching” techniques. We found that the list was compiled using a number of faulty assumptions and that it would have harmed eligible voters if used as the basis for a purge.

In 2006, the Secretary of State of Kentucky attempted to purge the state’s rolls based on a flawed attempt to identify voters who had moved from Kentucky to neighboring South Carolina and Tennessee. A resulting lawsuit uncovered the fact that eligible voters who had not, in fact, moved out of the state of Kentucky were caught up in the purge; a state court ordered the state to reverse the purge.

The purges reviewed for this report give no greater grounds for comfort. While the reasons vary from state to state, no state reviewed in this report uses purge practices or procedures that are free from risk of error or manipulation, that have sufficient voter protections, or that have adequate procedures to catch and correct errors.

The problems are systemic. The lists are error-ridden. The purges are done in secret, with no notice to voters or attempts to double-check the results among those affected. The matching programs are crude, and tend to toss out multiple people with the same name even though only one is actually being targeted.

The voter protections are absent, as is the oversight. There’s no governing standard, and methods vary on the state, and even the county, level. And, strangely enough, these problems tend to cluster when it comes to purges of low-income and minority voters, who experience higher levels of disenfranchisement.

Whether or not all eligible citizens have access to the franchise is, with no overstatement, the most fundamental test of a democracy. We too frequently fail it. And because those failures tend to systematically benefit certain political factions and effect marginalized communities, there’s no urgency behind a fix, much less consensus. It’s shameful.

Wow. Just….wow.

In England, every citizen of voting age is sent an electoral register form to fill out, every six months or so. If you don’t fill the form out, then you’re not eligible to vote in any of the forth-coming elections. That puts the responsibility firmly in the hands of the citizens. This is a far cry from having your name scrubbed off the list by accident, or because you weren’t the right colour.

And to not even inform the people who are being scrubbed from the lists beforehand, so that they can at least question their removal? Absolutely disgusting.

This is beyond effed up, and whoever gets voted in needs to look at some kind of federal law that addresses this issue methinks.

Riding Temptation, by Jaci Burton

Second installment in Ms Burton’s Wild Riders series, published by Berkley Heat, Riding Temptation follows Díaz Delgado and Jessie Matthews during an undercover investigation in weapon smuggling.

The Wild Riders are a number of bikers—dudes and dudettes *tip o’ the helmet to Ms Burton*—who are in fact undercover federal agents working in tandem with other federal agencies (ATF in this case) by penetrating different bike gangs wherever illegal activities are suspected.

The usual warning: this series is considered erotic romance, which means that there’s graphic language and sexual behaviour. Minors and those who are bothered by either should skip these. (more…)