Why Voter Purging Matters in Swing States

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In states such as Kansas, elections for the state legislature can be decided by as little as 9 votes, which makes maintenance of voter rolls a vitally important part of the democratic process. Sometimes, these rolls are purged to account for voters who have died or moved out of state, among other reasons. Voter rolls can also be purged as a means of voter disenfranchisement, and affect much more than state-level elections.

For example, Florida recently purged 85,000 voters in a state where Trump only won by 113,000 votes in 2016. While many of the voters who were purged from the rolls may have been purged due to routine maintenance, state purges like Florida’s can have a profound effect on the turnout of larger events like federal elections, because unlawful purges or ones done in error can shrink the margin of victory and lead to contested elections.

While the process of voter purging is a necessary one, the problems it brings up in swing states are concerning, especially if it is the case that voter purges are being used to target certain demographics or political ideologies.

Even more critically, one political party in particular has experienced more instances of voter purging in some states. Voter purging is a non-partisan issue, as all ideologies maintain the right to vote, and when done correctly, voter purging is a natural part of the democratic process. Nonetheless, the fact that one group is being purged more thoroughly leads to questions about voter disenfranchisement. This means that voter purging is especially relevant in swing states, where excess purging of the voter rolls can earn a more definitive win.

Interested in learning more about voter purging? Check out this comprehensive list of voter data and purging here.

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Georgia’s Election Law, and Why Turnout Isn’t Easy to Turn Off

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Making voting convenient doesn’t necessarily translate into more votes, research shows.

From The New York Times:

There’s nothing unusual about exaggeration in politics. But when it comes to the debate over voting rights, something more than exaggeration is going on.

There’s a real — and bipartisan — misunderstanding about whether making it easier or harder to vote, especially by mail, has a significant effect on turnout or electoral outcomes. The evidence suggests it does not.

The fight over the new Georgia election law is only the latest example. That law, passed last week, has been condemned by Democrats as voter suppression, or even as tantamount to Jim Crow.

Democrats are understandably concerned about a provision that empowers the Republican-controlled State Legislature to play a larger role in election administration. That provision has uncertain but potentially substantial effects, depending on what the Legislature might do in the future. And it’s possible the law is intended to do exactly what progressives fear: reshape the electorate to the advantage of Republicans, soon after an electoral defeat, by making it harder to vote.

And yet the law’s voting provisions are unlikely to significantly affect turnout or Democratic chances. It could plausibly even increase turnout. In the final account, it will probably be hard to say whether it had any effect on turnout at all.

Read the full story here >>

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Opinion: Arizona Republicans’ desperate crusade to find nonexistent voter fraud

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As reported by The Washington Post:

ARIZONA SENATE President Karen Fann (R) says she is determined to “ensure the integrity of the vote” in her state. Which is supposedly why, five months after Election Day, following multiple credible audits that found no hint of substantial fraud, she insists that the state Senate must conduct yet another audit, re-scanning and hand-counting every ballot cast in Phoenix’s Maricopa County, as well as digging into electronic election systems.

This would be a big job for even the most experienced election official or voting company, never mind state legislators. So Ms. Fann and her Senate colleagues tapped Cyber Ninjas, a little-known Florida cybersecurity firm that boasts that it provides “general consulting” and “ethical hacking” services, to lead the audit. Arizona journalists quickly discovered one possible reason for this puzzling choice: Cyber Ninjas founder Doug Logan appears to have pushed pro-Trump election conspiracy theories on a Twitter account he apparently deleted in January.

“The parallels between the statistical analysis of Venezuela and this year’s election are astonishing,” one tweet read, which included the hashtag #StopTheSteal. “I’m tired of hearing people say there was no fraud. It happened, it’s real, and people better get wise fast,” read a tweet Mr. Logan apparently retweeted in December. He was also involved in a lawsuit claiming election fraud in Michigan.

“This firm’s CEO not only harbors conspiratorial beliefs about the 2020 election, but has shared conspiracies about Dominion election equipment, the exact equipment he has been hired to audit,” Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D) objected.

“Dominion supports all forensic audits conducted by independent, federally accredited Voting System Test Labs — but this is not that,” said a spokesperson for Dominion Voting Systems, the target of much pro-Trump election conspiracy theorizing. “Over a thousand independent audits and recounts have taken place across the country since Election Day, and they all demonstrated the accuracy and reliability of our voting systems.”

Read the full story here >>

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Democrats Splinter Over Strategy for Pushing Through Voting Rights Bill

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President Biden and leading congressional Democrats have made the far-reaching bill a top priority, but some proponents believe it needs major changes.

From The New York Times:

Democrats in Congress are quietly splintering over how to handle the expansive voting rights bill that they have made a centerpiece of their ambitious legislative agenda, potentially jeopardizing their chances of countering a Republican drive to restrict ballot access in states across the country.

President Biden and leading Democrats have pledged to make the elections overhaul a top priority, even contemplating a bid to upend bedrock Senate rules if necessary to push it through over Republican objections. But they are contending with an undercurrent of reservations in their ranks over how aggressively to try to revamp the nation’s elections and whether, in their zeal to beat back new Republican ballot restrictions moving through the states, their proposed solution might backfire, sowing voting confusion and new political challenges.

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Democrats Begin Push for Biggest Expansion of Voting Since 1960s

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Democrats characterized the far-reaching elections overhaul as the civil rights battle of modern times. Republicans called it a power grab that would put their party at a permanent disadvantage.

From the New York Times:

Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, the top Republican on the Senate Rules Committee, which convened the hearing, said states were taking appropriate steps to restore public confidence after 2020 by imposing laws that require voters to show identification before voting and limiting so-called ballot harvesting, where others collect voters’ completed absentee ballots and submit them to election officials. He said that if Democrats were allowed to rush through changes on the national level, “chaos will reign in the next election and voters will have less confidence than they currently do.”

The suggestion piqued Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota and the committee chairwoman, who shot back that it was the current elections system — an uneven patchwork of state laws and evolving voting rules — that had caused “chaos” at polling places.

“Chaos is what we’ve seen in the last years — five-hour or six-hour lines in states like Arizona to vote. Chaos is purging names of longtime voters from a voter list so they can’t go vote in states like Georgia,” she said. “What this bill tries to do is to simply make it easier for people to vote and take the best practices that what we’ve seen across the country, and put it into law as we are allowed to do under the Constitution.”

With Republicans unified against them, Democrats’ best hope for enacting the legislation increasingly appears to be to try to leverage its voting protections — to justify triggering the Senate’s so-called nuclear option: the elimination of the filibuster rule requiring 60 votes, rather than a simple majority, to advance most bills.

Even that may be a prohibitively heavy lift, though, at least in the bill’s current form. Liberal activists who are spending tens of millions of dollars promoting it insist that the package must move as one bill. But Senator Joe Manchin III, a centrist West Virginia Democrat whose support they would need both to change the filibuster rules and to push through the elections bill, said on Wednesday that he would not support it in its current form.

Speaking to reporters in the Capitol, Mr. Manchin said he feared that pushing through partisan changes would create more “division” that the country could not afford after the Jan. 6 attack, and instead suggested narrowing the bill.

Read the full story here.

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Republicans Aim to Seize More Power Over How Elections Are Run

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G.O.P. lawmakers in at least eight states controlled by the party are trying to gain broad influence over the mechanics of voting, in an effort that could further undermine the country’s democratic norms.

From the New York Times:

Democrats began pushing on Wednesday for the most substantial expansion of voting rights in a half-century, laying the groundwork in the Senate for what would be a fundamental change to the ways voters get to the polls and elections are run.

At a contentious hearing on Capitol Hill, Democratic leaders made a passionate case for a bill that would mandate automatic voter registration nationwide, expand early and mail-in voting, end gerrymandering that skews congressional districts for maximum partisan advantage and curb the influence of money in politics.

The effort is taking shape as Republicans have introduced more than 250 bills to restrict voting in 43 states and have continued to spread false accusations of fraud and impropriety in the 2020 election. It comes just months after those claims, spread by President Donald J. Trump as he sought to cling to power, fueled a deadly riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6 that showed how deeply his party had come to believe in the myth of a stolen election.

Republicans were unapologetic in their opposition to the measure, with some openly arguing that if Democrats succeeded in making it easier for Americans to vote and in enacting the other changes in the bill, it would most likely place their party permanently in the minority.

“Any American who thinks that the fight for a full and fair democracy is over is sadly and sorely mistaken,” said Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader. “Today, in the 21st century, there is a concerted, nationwide effort to limit the rights of citizens to vote and to truly have a voice in their own government.”

Mr. Schumer’s rare appearance at a committee meeting underscored the stakes, not just for the election process but for his party’s own political future. He called the proposed voting rollbacks in dozens of states — including Georgia, Iowa and Arizona — an “existential threat to our democracy” reminiscent of the Jim Crow segregationist laws of the past.

Read the full story here.

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A Close-Up Picture of Partisan Segregation, Among 180 Million Voters

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From the New York Times:

The broad outlines of America’s partisan divides are visible on any national map. Republicans typically dominate in most Southern and Plains states, and Democrats in Northeastern and West Coast ones. Democrats cluster in urban America, Republicans in more rural places.

But keep zooming in — say, to the level of individual addresses for 180 million registered voters — and this pattern keeps repeating itself: within metro areas, within counties and cities, even within parts of the same city.

Democrats and Republicans live apart from each other, down to the neighborhood, to a degree that raises provocative questions about how closely lifestyle preferences have become aligned with politics and how even neighbors may influence one another.

As new research has found, it’s not just that many voters live in neighborhoods with few members of the opposite party; it’s that nearly all American voters live in communities where they are less likely to encounter people with opposing politics than we’d expect. That means, for example, that in a neighborhood where Democrats make up 60 percent of the voters, only 50 percent of a Republican’s nearest neighbors might be Democrats.

Democrats and Republicans are effectively segregated from each other, to varying degrees by place, according to the Harvard researchers Jacob Brown and Ryan Enos. And at least over the past decade, they believe this partisan segregation has been growing more pronounced.

Read the full story here.

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Virginia Gov. Northam restores voting rights to 69,000 former felons with new policy

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From CNN:

Virginia Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam announced Tuesday that he’s taking executive action to restore voting and other civil rights to former felons as soon as they complete their prison terms — a move that will immediately apply to more than 69,000 formerly incarcerated Virginians.

Northam’s action, shared first with CNN, is the latest push to expand the franchise to ex-convicts in the state, and comes just months before Virginia’s gubernatorial and state legislative elections.

It also occurs in the middle of a battle around the country over who has the right to vote. Republican-controlled legislatures are moving to clamp down on access to the ballot. As of February 19, lawmakers in 43 states had introduced more than 250 bills that included voting restrictions, according to a tally from the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University. Arizona and Georgia — two traditionally Republican states that backed President Joe Biden last fall — have led the way in pushing new restrictions.

Removing obstacles to voting for former felons has been the subject of partisan warfare in some states because of the perception that this cohort of voters is more likely to support Democratic candidates.

Under current law in Virginia, anyone convicted of a felony loses an array of civil rights, including the right to vote, serve on juries or run for public office. The state Constitution gives the governor the sole power to restore most of those civil rights.

Previously, the state’s policy required former felons to finish serving “active supervision,” including probation or parole, before they were eligible to have their rights restored by the governor. Northam’s move means Virginians who have been released from prison but still remain on probation or parole now are eligible to vote.

Read the full story here.

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Voter purges put eligible Wisconsinites’ rights at risk, new report finds

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Wisconsin’s method of cleaning its voter registration list may disenfranchise a significant number of voters. 

From The Fulcrum:

A new study suggests some voters in Wisconsin, particularly members of minority communities in that perennial tossup state, may lose their voting rights thanks to flaws in the state’s process for maintaining registration lists.

At least 4 percent of Wisconsin voters’ registrations were incorrectly flagged as out of date in 2018 because they were suspected of having moved but had not done so, Yale University researchers found.

Their report offers a number of caveats that demonstrate the incorrect labeling is likely higher than 4 percent. And in a place where the state Supreme Court is considering whether to purge 129,000 voters — and where the last two contests for presidential electors were each decided by fewer than 25,000 ballots — every registration is critical.

Wisconsin participates in the Electronic Registration Information Center, which shares data (like motor vehicle and Postal Service records) among 30 states and Washington, D.C., to help them maintain voter registration lists, or poll books. Yale’s researchers, led by political science professor Gregory Huber, compared ERIC’s Wisconsin data to actual voter files from 2018 and 2019.

From there, they could determine which suspected movers never responded to the state’s postcards seeking address confirmation but still cast ballots at the addresses on file — data totaling at least 9,000 registrants, or 4 percent of the registered voters. And minority voters were twice as likely as white voters to be mislabeled.

Read the full story here

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The racial burden of voter list maintenance errors: Evidence from Wisconsin’s supplemental movers poll books

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Administrative records are increasingly used to identify registered voters who may have moved, with potential movers then sent postcards asking them to confirm their address of registration.

From Science Advances:

Administrative records are increasingly used to identify registered voters who may have moved, with potential movers then sent postcards asking them to confirm their address of registration. It is important to understand how often these registrants did not move, and how often such an error is not corrected by the postcard confirmation process, because uncorrected errors make it more difficult for a registrant to subsequently vote. While federal privacy protections generally prevent researchers from observing the data necessary to estimate these quantities, we are able to study this process in Wisconsin because special poll books, available via public records requests, listed those registrants who were identified as potential movers and did not respond to a subsequent postcard. At least 4% of these registrants cast a ballot at their address of registration, with minority registrants twice as likely as white registrants to do so.

Read the full research article here.

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