NYU: Between 2016 and 2018, The U.S. Purged 17M Voters From Voting Rolls

Megan Everts

The Brennan Center for Justice found that voter purging has increased in recent years.

The Brennan Center for Justice used data released by the federal Election Assistance Commission in June 2019 for an analysis that found “at least 17 million voters were purged nationwide between 2016 and 2018.”

This increase in voter purging may be associated with voter discrimination.

  • More specifically, the Center found that “counties with a history of voter discrimination have continued purging people from the rolls at much higher rates than other counties.”
  • This phenomenon “began after the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling in Shelby County v. Holder,” as it “severely weakened the protections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.”
  • Before this decision, “Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act required jurisdictions with a history of discrimination to submit proposed changes in voting procedures to the Department of Justice or a federal court for approval, a process known as ‘preclearance.’”
  • Furthermore, “the median purge rate over the 2016–2018 period in jurisdictions previously subject to preclearance was 40 percent higher than the purge rate in jurisdictions that were not covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.”

The Center acknowledges that there are both good and bad reasons for a voter to be removed from the rolls and notes that its “analysis does not assess how many voters were improperly purged.”

  • For example, if a voter moves to a new state, they are no longer eligible to vote in their original state and should be removed from its voter rolls.
  • Additionally, if a voter has passed away, they should also be removed from the rolls.
  • However, sometimes the data regarding these factors can be faulty or become mixed up, leading to the wrong voter being purged.
  • The Center notes that “minority voters are more likely to share names than white voters, potentially exposing them to a greater risk of being purged.”

The Center emphasized the need for “reforms like automatic voter registration and election day registration” in order to “keep voters’ registration records up to date.”

Read more here.


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