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Does Voter Purging Disenfranchise?

(OP: JULY 20, 2018)

Voter Purging in Ohio

The Supreme Court recently passed down a decision to allow Ohio to purge their voter lists. Voter purging is meant to remove any person from the list who has not been an active voter over the past several elections. In order to stay on registration lists, there are a number of bureaucratic steps that must be taken. Standards for voter purging do vary from state to state, however. In Ohio, if it has been marked that you have not voted in the past several election cycles, you will be sent a notecard. You must fill out that notecard and send it back to maintain your voting status. If not, you will be removed from the list. You will also be removed from the list if you are a convicted felon. These two criterion seem simple enough, but in actual execution, it becomes much more complicated.

Two Sides of the Argument

This practice was taken to court by the A. Philip Randolph Institute and other civil-rights groups, arguing that it goes against the 1993 National Voter Registration Act as voter purging typically unjustly targets minorities, further disenfranchising them at the polls. Voter purges are done to ensure that those on the rolls are active and engaged voters. Removing those that have not voted in the past several elections means that you are removing people who have either passed away, or moved to another location. Therefore, it is said to prevent voter fraud because people cannot vote under a dead person’s name, or vote in two different locations because they have moved and potentially registered at another polling site.

Purging in the 2000 Presidential Election        

During the 2000 presidential election race in Florida, there was an immense amount of voter purging that was originally meant to target convicted felons, but instead removed mainly eligible and legal voters from the rolls. This purge was based off of the felon-disenfranchisement law, dated back to 1868, when the state banned anyone with a felony conviction from voting unless the governor issued a pardon. The law impacted newly emancipated African Americans, who during slavery were far more likely to be arrested than whites. This policy was still on the books in 2000. The purge list for the 2000 election contained 58,000 alleged felons. At the time, African-Americans made up 11% of registered voters. However, they made up 44% of this list. Furthermore, this list contained numerous errors, resulting in tens of thousands of people wrongfully purged from the rolls. Such errors included distinctions so simple as a difference in a middle name, or differential spelling of a last name.

Does Voter Purging Disenfranchise?

As African-Americans largely vote democratic and this purge disproportionately targets them, there is a huge margin of votes that could have potentially gone to Al Gore. The result of this election was not only a mass amount of people who now have to jump through hoops to re-register because they had their right to vote taken away, it also created a narrative of voter fraud fueled by the GOP. “Longtime Republican consultant Carter Wrenn, a fixture in North Carolina politics, said the GOP’s voter fraud argument is nothing more than an excuse. ‘Of course it’s political. Why else would you do it?’ he said, explaining that Republicans, like any political party, want to protect their majority”. He went on further to say, “‘Look, if African Americans voted overwhelmingly Republican, they would have kept early voting right where it was,” Wrenn said. “It wasn’t about discriminating against African Americans. They just ended up in the middle of it because they vote Democrat’”. Minority disenfranchisement also comes with not having access to voter information because they are no longer on the rolls. Therefore, they may never vote again because they do not know where or when the elections are taking place.

What are your thoughts on voter purging?