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Resources to Combat Voter Purges Emerge as Voting Registration Deadlines Arrive

Auditi Guha

In 14 states, Tuesday is the voter registration deadline, and many nonprofits and activist groups are working to arm voters with the information they need to vote in November.

Tuesday is the voter registration deadline to vote in 14 states, including Georgia, Florida, Michigan, and Ohio, and there are resources and efforts underway to help voters combat all kinds of Republican-backed voter suppressionfrom purge notices and ID requirements to legal challenges.

Don’t Get Purged, for instance, helps voters check to see if their names are on the voter rolls. Overseas and military voters can check the Overseas Vote initiative.

Websites also help pinpoint the voter purge efforts in states like Georgia, where more than 380,000 voters last year received a “purge notice.” Journalist Greg Palast has created a state voter purge website that helps get residents’ votes restored.

“Basically everyone here is what we call ‘purge by postcard’ victims: They missed an election. They got a postcard to confirm their address. They didn’t send back the postcard, they missed say the 2014 and 2016 elections, they were cancelled without further notice on the grounds that that was evidence that they had moved,” Palast told Salon.

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Nonpartisan groups like the Campaign Legal Center point voters to sites like RestoreYourVote.org, where people can learn about their voting rights.

Under the Trump administration, voter suppression has been a serious concern nationwide. In a setback for Ohio voters, for instance, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that a Republican-backed voter purge program can resume, saying it does not violate the National Voter Registration Act of 1993.

Incidents recorded in 2016 include states like Alabama asking voters for the first time for a photo ID, such as a driver’s license, a passport, a university student ID, or federal government-issued ID;  212 fewer polling locations available in Arizona; allegations of voter fraud by college students in Maine; and a challenge list targeting Black and Democratic early voters in North Carolina

Meanwhile, more than 500,000 voters face being disenfranchised in Arizona due to the state’s failure to update addresses, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

“When someone moves, they are required to vote in the polling location for their new address. But Arizona voters whose registration address has not been updated by the secretary of state will not receive mailers that help them identify their new polling location. As a result, many of these voters understandably return to their old polling location,” an ACLU blogpost states.

Last year the Brennan Center for Justice, a nonpartisan nonprofit, looked at data from more than 6,600 jurisdictions and found the median rate of purging across the United States rose from 6.2 percent of voters to 7.8 percent since 2008 and amounts to four million people being struck off voting lists, Myrna Pèrez of the Brennan Center wrote in the New York Times.

The center found that officials in four states have engaged in illegal purges (Florida, New York, North Carolina, and Virginia) in the past five years, and another four (Alabama, Arizona, Indiana, and Maine) have written policies that violate the National Voter Registration Act.

Alabama, Indiana, and Maine use Crosscheck, “a problematic multistate database” with a high error rate, to flag voters to purge using only names and birth dates, which is not precise enough to prevent mistakes.

“You should not need a lawyer to exercise your right to vote,” said Corey Goldstone, spokesperson at the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center. “But with restrictive state voter ID laws and confusing laws around voting with a past conviction, that’s exactly what you need. States and localities should be pursuing policies that make it easier to vote, not harder.”

Many nonprofits and activist groups are working to arm voters with the information they need to vote in November.

The United States Elections Project, run by a political science professor Michael P. McDonald in Florida, provides a slew of useful information about the electoral system to “inform the people of the United States on how their electoral system works, how it may be improved, and how they can participate in it,” the website states.

Analyzing voter turnout for a decade, McDonald told Rewire.News that the numbers so far indicate an uptick. “I think we are going to have unusually high turnout,” he said. “All the information is pointing in the same direction, which is to say we are going to have higher turnout that we’ve had say for the last three decades in the U.S. midterm election.”

Typical midterm turnout is about 40 percent of the eligible voters and given the current information, McDonald predicts it could be in the mid- to high-40 percent range.

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