Political Focus: Voter purge across America

Patrick Sullivan, Web Editor

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Having the right to vote is something that we as Americans take pride in. Having a democracy where we can elect someone to be our voice is a privilege not all people have access to.

However, in America, someone not having access to this right is becoming more and more common.

Between 2016 and 2017, 90,000 voters from Nevada were unregistered from their electoral rolls, along with a staggering 469,000 voters from the state of Indiana according to a study by the Palast Investigative Fund.

Generally, people getting removed from a state’s list of registered voters is common. People can move out of the state, die or be convicted of a felony. However, the manner in which a great number of these deregistrations are being held is calling into question the legitimacy of these purges.

When a voter is suspected from having moved, for example, in Nevada, the state sends a postcard to their registered address. If the postcard was not delivered and returned, the state would send another postcard to forward to the new address. If that postcard did not come back, then the voter would be moved to an ‘inactive’ status.

According to a press release from the Palast Investigative Fund, many of the people that were removed from the electoral rolls had not moved at all.

“Our experts, reviewing these lists, have found that the overwhelming majority of voters who have supposedly moved out of state or out of their home counties have, in fact, not moved an inch,” the press release from Oct. 15 said.

The most egregious and popular example of voters being purged is in Georgia, where one of the candidates for governor is Secretary of State Brian Kemp. Kemp’s office has overseen the removal of 340,000 current Georgia residents from the state’s electoral rolls, drawing controversy for a potential conflict of interest.

Another controversy in Georgia surrounds the ‘exact match’ law that was passed last year. Under the law, voters need to have the exact letters and numbers match on both their voter registration form and either the state’s motor vehicle department or the state’s Social Security database.

That means a simple mistake such as a missing hyphen or a middle initial can place them onto a “pending” voter list. If a voter is on a “pending” list, they cannot send in an absentee ballot, and must present a photo ID in person on election day in order to vote.

A study released by The Washington Post shows that the exact match law could disenfranchise up to 909,540 eligible voters, almost triple the currently reported amount.

These purges that we know about are concerning because the razor-thin amount that elections can be decided by. For example in 2016, President Donald Trump won the state of Michigan by 0.3 percent, or just 13,000 votes.

In 2016, Trump won in Georgia by around 200,000 votes, which is more than covered by the voters that have been removed in 2016 and 2017. These elections, and voting itself, are so important for deciding our future, but the opportunities to contribute to these outcomes are being taken away.