Electoral Hygiene

Heather Stone registering voters in Herzliya with VoteFromAbroad.Org  Photo Credit: Rocky Peltzman
Heather Stone registering voters in Herzliya with VoteFromAbroad.Org Photo Credit: Rocky Peltzman

Think You’re Registered To Vote? Check Again.

Voter registration lists are the gateway to being eligible to vote in the United States. In order to be able to vote, your name has to appear in the registration rolls. Sounds simple, right? I wish that were true.

State and local officials regularly purge these lists. Sometimes, this is for good reasons, such as to keep the lists clean of duplicates, to remove deceased persons and to remove people who have moved away. However, in some places the practice has been coopted for the purposes of voter suppression aimed at restricting communities of color and incidentally also impacting many overseas voters. In fact, reports are that some states and local officials have been using purging tactics with wild abandon. They use a technique called ‘caging’, where they send several letters to the voter’s last address, and if the mail is returned unopened, the voter is marked on a list to be purged from the voter registration roll. The Republican National Committee and Republican state and local officials have been purging predominately African American and other communities of color from the voter registration rolls. Meanwhile, voters residing overseas who are statistically more likely to vote Democrat, are also being wrongly purged, since we often do not get our mail at our last in-state address.

There have been many legal cases challenging these caging tactics used. The Republican National Committee was subject to a 35 year consent decree from 1982 that expired in December 2017. As Vann R. Newkirk, II described it in the Atlantic “the RNC had sent sample ballots to communities of color, and then had the names for each ballot returned as undeliverable removed from voter rolls. Democrats also alleged that the RNC hired off-duty cops to patrol majority-minority precincts, wearing “National Ballot Security Task Force” armbands. These details were enough to secure a consent decree between the two party organizations and the court in 1982, stopping the GOP from engaging in such voter-intimidation practices.” State and local officials manage to suppress minority voters just fine without the help of the RNC. A court in North Carolina stopped Republicans in 2016, from using caging in three counties to purge thousands of voters in disproportionately black districts. Also in 2016, several cases were filed against Brian Kemp, then Georgia Secretary of State, and a Republican (before he became Governor of Georgia), for purging over 30,000 voters from the voter rolls for minor errors; nearly 65 percent of the purged voters were minorities. Following these and other irregularities in Georgia which continued in 2018, when Kemp ran for Governor against Stacey Abrams, a Democrat, the organization Fair Fight was created, to “promote fair elections in Georgia and around the country, encourage voter participation in elections, and educate voters about elections and their voting rights.”

In this extraordinarily politically challenging year, where the stakes are so high, we cannot take any chances that voters who are eligible to vote will not receive ballots.

The final date in this election cycle for a state or local official to purge the voter registration lists is August 5, 2020. After that date, registered voters can no longer be removed from the voter registration rolls before the November 3, 2020 election. Therefore, on August 6, 2020, go to the State Voting Guide in Vote From Abroad www.votefromabroad.org/states and look up your state and your own registration status. Confirm that you are registered.

If for some reason you are not registered, if you were purged from the rolls, do not worry. It’s not too late to register again. Go to the home page of Vote From Abroad www.votefromabroad.org and fill out the FPCA form to register to vote (and request your ballot).

If you know any Americans who have not done this electoral check up, make sure they do. Good electoral hygiene is important. We need to make sure that every American eligible to vote in the November election, votes.

About the Author
Heather Stone is visually impaired following brain surgery in 2017 and is learning to navigate the world differently. She worked for leading law firms in Tel Aviv for more than 20 years, and has expertise in international mergers and acquisitions law. She is the Chair of Democrats Abroad Israel - www.democratsabroad.org and heads up VoteFromAbroad Israel - www.votefromabroad.org
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