Tag Archives: voter suppression

Georgia Voter Purge Begins Early, but Why Purges?

New Orleans        We knew it was coming.  When the American Voters Project combined with ACORN International and Labor Neighbor Research and Action Project to create the Voter Purge Project one of our first conversations was about adding Georgia to the list of states we needed to monitor aggressively.  Within days we were hearing calls for help from the New York Times and NPR.  Everyone saw this train coming down the track and none of us were ready when one full year before the election the office of the Georgia Secretary of State announced that they were preparing to purge 300,000 voters from the list, almost 4% of the registered voters in the state.

Georgia had been ground zero in the divisive and controversial recent election for governor there when the existing Secretary of State in charge of the election itself was able to narrowly defeat state legislator and African-American woman Stacey Abrams by a bit more than one-percent of the vote.  His utilization of voter purges and control of the voter list and election process was a huge issue in the election, and has become the main political project of Abrams subsequently.  In 2020, the state has two Republican Senators up for re-election making Georgia a battleground from the top of the ballot on down.

The spokesperson for the coming purge in George was quoted in The New York Times to the effect that this was natural and something that all states are doing, as if that answered any potential question about the practice or the impact of such purges.  Certainly, to the degree that the names of deceased voters are on the list, it makes sense to remove them.

Some of the other rationales for the practice are less clear.  The next most common has to do with correct addresses, but this argument isn’t a slam dunk.  It clearly favors homeowners as citizen-voters rather than tenants who are forced to move more often, and it favors higher income tenants compared to those living more precariously.  Little is done to make the process easier for tenants to vote, and the primacy of a home address to a citizen’s right to vote seems more like a record keeping problem, than a useful bar to democratic process.

The most specious argument in some ways may be the rationale that voters that have not participated in recent elections need to be removed from current and future elections, especially given the ideological devotion most states currently ascribe to voter IDs.  In countries like the USA where there is no mandatory obligation to vote, why would an eligible, registered voter be removed from voting rolls?  The claim of potential voter fraud disappears when voters in most areas have to show IDs now, which would establish their identity and eligibility regardless of whether or not they might have participated in recent elections.  In many cases, people aren’t voting because they don’t think their vote counts, the candidates and issues don’t seem compelling enough, or life, work, family and the myriad challenges prevent them from getting to the polls without extraordinary effort.  Why should they be purged? The Voter Purge Project also believes that with some work we can show that there is direct discrimination based on place, race, and income in such purges.

This train maybe coming in Georgia and many other states, but it seems clear that it needs to be slowed down or stopped until it is put on the right track.


College Student GOTV Could be Key in Fight against Suppression

New Orleans      The persistent political canard has been that, sure, you can register young people, but most of them are not going to vote.  The Trump turmoil and the urgency of climate change is overturning whatever conventional wisdom that might have been attached to that notion in the past.  Tufts University’s Institute for Democracy & Higher Education found that the turnout of college students in the 2018 midterms hit 40.3% of ten million students, double the rate from 2014.  In these times of course, expect reaction to such action, and that usually means voter suppression, especially with every poll of young people seeming to indicate that they are becoming ever more Democratic, and, oh mercy, feeling ever friendlier to socialism.

New Hampshire has tried to pushback on student voting by requiring a student show both a New Hampshire driver’s license and auto registration, while absorbing the costs of both, according to reporting in the New York Times.  Florida’s Secretary of State, Republican of course, tried outlawing early-voting in 2014, but after federal courts slapped him down, 60,000 voters cast on-campus ballots in 2018.  The sneaky Republican-majority Florida legislature slipped a requirement that ballot locations had to have non-permitted parking access in order to try and prevent on-campus voting in 2020.  North Carolina pulled a wink-and-nod, saying that student IDs would be valid for voting identification, but then made the requirements to get them so extreme that universities in the main were unable to comply and less than half of the more than 180 accredited schools in the state have now even tried to certify their IDs.  In Wisconsin, Republicans require poll workers to check signatures only on student IDs though some schools have removed signatures so that the IDs can be modernized as debit cards and dorm room keys.  Tennessee and Texas are among the worst at allowing students to vote.  Of course, just not allowing sites on-campus, while putting them in nursing homes and senior centers makes the point pretty powerfully as well and that happens just about everywhere.

The Voter Purge Project, a joint effort of the American Voter Project, ACORN International, and Labor Neighbor Research & Training Center has found in its review of voter files and the efforts to purge records a similar bias in the states reviewed, which include Ohio, Florida, and North Carolina among others.   The standard rationale for purges is people dying and moving.  The data shows that the fewest purges are among the elderly cohort, 65 and older, where, frankly, people are dying the most.  According to the Ohio demographer, one million die annually.  The highest level of purges though are the youngest cohorts 18 and above.  Further analysis by the project may find this to be common in all of these states.  Further research will have to determine whether there is a major differential between Republican and Democratic leaning states in handling purges.

The student vote is going to matter in 2020.  The fight for access and against suppression is one that we need to engage immediately.