The New Jim Crow: States Purged 16 Million From The Voter Rolls In 2016

Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY)Gage Skidmore / CC - 2.0 / Flickr

States previously subject to federal oversight purged voters at higher rates than those without discriminatory histories

A report published Friday by the Brennan Center for Justice reveals that more than 16 million voters were purged from state voter roles between 2014 and 2016, which marks a significant increase from previous years, according to ThinkProgress.

The report comes just a few weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Ohio’s voter purge system, clearing the way for more states to move forward with the types of purges that disproportionately impact low-income and minority voters.

For the two years before the 2016 election, the number of purged voters across the county increased 33 percent over the two years before the 2008 presidential election, according to the report. The increase in purged voters was most significant in parts of the country with a history of racial discrimination that, until the Supreme Court’s Shelby County v. Holder decision in 2013, were required to seek pre-approval of changes to their voting laws from the Department of Justice.

States previously subject to oversight purged voters at a higher rate than other states, according to data from the Election Assistance Commission, resulting in about 2 million more voters purged than if those states had cleared voter rolls at the same rate as the others.

In Texas, for example, one of the states previously subject to federal preclearance, approximately 363,000 more voters were erased from the rolls in the first election cycle after Shelby County than in the comparable midterm election cycle immediately preceding it,” the report said. “And Georgia purged twice as many voters — 1.5 million — between the 2012 and 2016 elections as it did between 2008 and 2012.”

The report also found that several states are not abiding federal law when it comes to formulating their voter purging procedures:

The federal National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), passed in 1993, set standards for how states can maintain their voter rolls. Under the law, states are only allowed to remove voters if they were never eligible to vote (if they are under 18 or non-citizens) or if they have committed a disenfranchising crime, been deemed mentally incompetent, moved residences, or died. In those cases, states must give notice to voters that are going to be removed, providing them an opportunity to remedy any errors. States are also are not permitted to conduct widespread purges in the months leading up to an election.

According to the report, four states (Florida, New York, North Carolina, and Virginia) have engaged in illegal purges in the last five years and another four (Alabama, Arizona, Indiana, and Maine) have implemented purge rules that violate federal law.

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