Election 2008

Alex Brandon/AP
Democratic presidential candidate Sen.
Obama takes the stage at a rally at
The Oval at
Colorado State University in
Fort Collins, Colorado.

Michigan Prevented from Purging Names from Voter Rolls

October 31, 2008 11:15 AM
by Lindsey Chapman
The state of Michigan is returning thousands of names to its voter rolls after a federal appeals court said they were removed illegally.

Voter ID Trouble

On Oct. 30, election officials in Michigan began returning approximately 5,500 names to their voter rolls.

The voters' names were removed because their voter ID cards had been undeliverable since Jan 1., 2006, according to The Detroit News.

A U.S. District Court judge originally ordered the official to reinstate the names on Oct. 13, saying that purging them had violated the National Voting Rights Act. Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land appealed the decision, however, arguing that putting the names back would be a burden and that they had been removed legally.

Land's office requested a stay of the order to put the names back on the rolls, but the appeals court rejected that idea. The court will not rule on the appeal until after the election.

According to The Detroit News, Circuit Judge Karen Nelson Moore, joined by Circuit Judge Helene N. White, wrote, "Any such individual who is 'rejected' under the Michigan system because his or her original voter ID card is later returned as undeliverable has had his or her rights ... violated."

Purging Voter Names in Colorado

Nearly 27,000 names have been removed from voter rolls in Colorado, and State Atty. Gen. John Suthers has asked a judge to deny a request to put the names back.

Colorado Common Cause, Mi Familia Vota Education Fund and the Service Employees International Union filed suit against Colorado Secretary of State Mike Coffman because the names were scratched from rolls within 90 days of a federal general election, which is prohibited by the National Voter Registration Act.

Suthers said the names were removed because the voters had moved or were registered more than once. Names of people who had died, who had requested that their names be removed or who were convicted of a felony were also removed from voter rolls. According to the Denver Post, Suthers stated that reinstating names at this point would “threaten the integrity of the statewide voter registration database” because early voting has already started.

The judge in the case planned to address the reinstatement request on Oct. 29, and asked clerks to stop removing any more names before Election Day.

More than 50,000 registered voters in Georgia are facing trouble similar to those in Colorado. Computer programs have flagged their names because of mismatched identification information. Other voters have received letters saying they aren’t United States citizens and are ineligible to vote, even though they can prove their citizenship.

When identification problems occur, computers purge the questionable names from voter rolls. Voting experts are growing concerned that these purges will suppress voters in swing states important to this year’s election.

“What most people don't know is that every year, elections officials strike millions of names from the voter rolls using processes that are secret, prone to error and vulnerable to manipulation,” Wendy Weiser, an elections expert with New York University's Brennan Center for Justice, told CNN. “That means that lots and lots of eligible voters could get knocked off the voter rolls without any notice and, in many cases, without any opportunity to correct it before Election Day.”

People whose voting status is questionable could still be allowed to cast a provisional or challenge ballot, Karen Handel, Georgia’s secretary of state, told CNN. But election officials will be left to determine whether the vote will count.

Background: Affected swing states

Adjusting registered voter lists could be especially problematic on Election Day in Colorado, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Nevada and North Carolina, according to The New York Times. The paper reported that the Democratic Party has been very active in registering voters for this election, which means the party could be “disproportionately” affected.

Related Topic: Voter fraud accusations

Earlier this month, a prominent community organization, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), was accused of submitting falsified or duplicate voter registration forms in Nevada and Ohio.

The battleground state of Ohio appeared in the voter fraud spotlight again in October when another registration organization, Vote From Home, was accused of misconduct. Vote From Home came under scrutiny after a number of names were traced back to a single home in Ohio, whose owner lives in New York.

Reference: National Voter Registration Act


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