You registered ages ago. You’re all set, right? Maybe not. In certain states, if you fail to show up to the polls, you could be at risk of being dropped from the rolls. Sophia Lin Lakin, staff attorney of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, explains.
How does voter purging work?
Sophia Lin Lakin: States use a variety of mechanisms to identify voters who’ve died or moved out of state and then remove them from the voter rolls to keep them up to date. Some of these processes, however, are prone to error and vulnerable to manipulation. Many voters only find out that they’ve been struck from the rolls when they go to the polls and it’s too late to reregister.
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Do states have to notify people when they’ve been removed?
States must provide notice to voters who may have moved before they can remove those voters from the rolls. Unfortunately, there are officials in states like Alabama, Indiana, and Maine who currently run or have recently adopted programs that strike voters from the rolls without notice.
Can someone be removed for simply not showing up to vote for several elections?
Yes—but only after the state sends the voter a notice. If the voter fails to respond and then does not vote for another four years, she will be struck from the rolls. Removing infrequent voters has resulted in thousands of erroneously purged names.
How do we combat erroneous purges?
The ACLU stands at the ready to challenge illegal purge practices in court and to press for reforms, like Election Day registration, that will ensure that no mistakenly purged voter is disenfranchised. But it’s just as important for each of us to support equal and fair access to the ballot by registering and voting to elect representatives who will protect and expand our rights.
This article originally appeared in the October 2018 issue of ELLE.