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Brennan Center Report Uncovers a Wild West of Voter Purges in a Dozen States

Voter purges, which became infamous in Florida in the 2000 election, seem to have become a consistent problem since then based on anecdotal evidence.  But few have looked across states to see how routine purges to “clean” the voter rolls of ineligible voters are actually carried out when they don’t make headlines.  The Brennan Center for Justice has investigated and what they report is troubling.  Their findings point to the critical need for vastly greater oversight, accountability and consistence in election administration practices across the country.

The report's author, Myrna Pérez, summarized her findings by noting that “[f]ar too frequently ”¦ eligible registered citizens show up to vote and discover their names have been removed from the voter lists.  States maintain voter rolls in an inconsistent and unac­countable manner.  Officials strike voters from the rolls through a process that is shrouded in secrecy, prone to error, and vulnerable to manipulation.”

After a systematic examination of the purging activities of 12 states, the authors found four practices undermining voter roll maintenance:

  • Purges rely on error-ridden lists
  • Voters are purged secretly and without notice
  • Bad “matching” criteria leaves voters vulnerable to manipulated purges
  • Insufficient oversight leaves voters vulnerable to manipulated purges

Given the serious purging problems identified in the report the Brennan Center recommends:

  • Transparency and Accountability for Purges
  • Strict Criteria for the Development of Purge Lists
  • “Fail-Safe” Provisions to Protect Voters
  • Universal Voter Registration

The new report from the Brennan Center is one more in a long series by that organization compellingly making the case that election administration practices in this country are in need of significant reevaluation and reform.  It is beyond clear that the way our elections are conducted does not comport with our expectations for a modern, democratic country.