As a resident of Salt Lake County, I have been actively involved in following and researching yesterday's announcement of a purge of 76,000 voters in Utah..
The vast majority of those who have been moved off the voter roles have been in Salt Lake County, where officials shifted about 60,000 voters to an "inactive status" if they hadn’t voted or signed a petition in the past several elections. An additional 30,000 who hadn’t participated in between eight and 12 years were moved to "old" status, meaning their names stay in the system, but they are not included in the official voter rolls sent to polling places. - Salt Lake TribuneApparently, another 16,000 voters have been purged from other counties, because the total number purged is reported as 76,000. Add the 30,000 on "hold", and we're talking about 106,000 voters.
So, I came onto DKos to post a brief diary. With a quick check, I found War of Error's excellent diary, "Utah Purges 76,000 from Voter Rolls, 16% of SLC Registered Voters!", from yesterday, which I regrettably missed. Please check it out for his interesting analysis.
More after the squiggle.
Here's a subsequent article from Fox local TV/online affiliate: Utah Dems Voice Concern Over Dropped ‘Inactive’ Voters. It contains quotes from interviews with both the Democratic County Clerk and the Democratic Party Chairman.
Utah Democratic Party Chair Jim Dabakis said it looks very suspicious with the election coming up.Bear in mind, Sherrie, for whom I held a fundraiser back in 2006, competes in a red-leaning county and works within a Republican-dominated elections operation. I am fairly certain she is following orders, although an unnamed official is quoted as saying it was her decision. And, of course, officials are using the fact that she is a Democrat to dispel notions that anything untoward is taking place.
“It’s a very, very close race in Salt Lake County for the mayor,” said Dabakis. “Eighty-five percent of the Matheson-Love race will be in Salt Lake County, there are some serious advantages to getting rid of Democrats in Salt Lake County.”
Meanwhile, "Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen says federal law requires her to do the purge every three years and that 'there is nothing suspicious about it.'"
Here's a question: if this is about a federal law, why is it that only Red States are addressing it in this manner, with massive, algorithmically-driven purges so close to the election?
Jim Dabakis, the Utah State Democratic Chairman, let Fox now that he's well aware of the larger effort:
Dabakis said he thinks the voter roll purge is part of a Republican plan that is not just on a local level, but part of a national agenda to stifle voter participation.As has been the case in many of these other purges in other states, the purged names are purported to be those of deceased or inactive voters. However, the comments to the Trib article show cases after case of active voters who have gone online or called into the Clerk's office to find that their names have been purged. (Mine wasn't.) And, as has been noted elsewhere, such as a purge requested by a third party in Detroit, MI, which did the research and produced a list, undoubtedly most if not all of the "deceased" are in fact living, legal voters. Because, as the clerk in that case noted, they have reliable methods of removing dead people on a routine basis.
“Yes, I think it is part of a big national plan,” said Dabakis.
What is different about these purges--which are being conducted in more and more states with each Presidential election cycle since Florida in 2000--from the normal procedures for maintaining clean voter roles, is that the lists are produced algorithmically. And the algorithms used produce gi-normous lists consisting of virtually entirely legal voters. And these voters are overwhelmingly Democrats, with a high percentage of minorities. And these voters are, by default, purged.
Now, the Clerk's offices conducting these purges typically insist that they send out postcard notices to let them know that they have been removed. This, they feel, is fair warning and gives the voter an opportunity to reaffirm their registration before the election. In Utah, according to Swensen, these were sent out over the summer. But, as the Trib article comments here in Salt Lake show, many people do not receive these postcards (or toss them inadvertently with junk mail, perhaps?). So you get all of these people who have no idea that they have been removed. Some of them will hear the news, but, if they are living (ha!) and active voters, they may well not bother to check, since they are told that only dead people and inactive voters have been removed. Unless they hear the news and then also decide, with abundant caution, to check, just in case, their name will not be on the roll come November 6.
As with the Voter ID law, then, this is a tool not designed for the task. In both cases, Voter IDs and voter purges, the tool is designed to put large numbers of voters in limbo, ostensibly to "ensure the integrity of elections", but, in reality, as we know, to erect hurdles and hope that the votes of 5, 10, 15% of the caged voters are suppressed either from being cast or from being counted.
Which takes us to provisional ballots. Now, I recall that tens of thousands of names "similar" to those of felons were purged from the Florida voting rolls in 2000. Thousands of those people did show up to vote and those who took the time had to submit provisional ballots. As everyone knows, those ballots were not counted. As everyone also knows, at the time the counting was stopped, Bush had a mere 500+ vote advantage. The rest is history.
Even those on an inactive or hold status are not off the rolls completely. A voter can cast a provisional ballot, which would be counted if he or she had been registered before.A voter purge occurred in TX this year with approximately the same number of voters
"We would seriously be shocked if these people showed up, but if they did we would still allow them to vote, at least provisionally," said Swensen. "No one has expressed any concern to us. We’ve given them every benefit of the doubt. We’ve kept them on even longer than we would need to."
involved (80,000). Democrats there were equally concerned with the rights of legal voters being interfered with. As an NPR article on the story reports:
(a spokesman for the Texas secretary of state) says none of this is a problem; voters who've been wrongly purged from the rolls can simply show up and vote anyway.Well, living people in TX began getting notices and a subsequent check determined that "there was a big probability that even a majority of the names on the list were people that were still alive." As a consequence,
Democrats are skeptical that a person whose name is not on the roll will be allowed to vote. They say Hispanics especially are likely to be suspected as illegal immigrants trying to vote illegally.
So (Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector) Sumner announced that — in Houston at least — there would be no purge of voters until after the election. That did not please the secretary of state, who threatened Sumner with the loss of state funding unless Sumner purged his rolls. That threat went over poorly with the Houston registrar who made it publicly clear to the secretary of state that she could take her threats and ...HA! Good news there.
Here in Salt Lake, we have an uphill battle and a short period of time. I intend to pull all out all the stops, see what flushes and put as much light (and hopefully heat!) on it as I can.
Last, how did we slide into the land where you lose your right to vote if you don't vote? Do we need a federal law to stipulate that not voting cannot be construed as a waiver of the right to vote thereafter???
HERE ARE MY CALL-OUTS:
If you have done significant research on voter purges, I am looking to consolidate as much information as possible demonstrating:
- all the places they have occurred, the number of voters purged, and the current status of the purge
- that the names purged are overwhelmingly those of Democrats or Independents who vote for Democrats.
- that the names purged are heavily represented by minorities.
- frequently there are names purged of contain ex-cons who have otherwise had their right to vote restored.*
- names are purged without positive verification that the voters are deceased or otherwise ineligible to vote.
- anything that helps solidify the argument that voter purges in particular are a part of a concerted, national effort to suppress voters.
* I have this in multiple places, but have not collected all the sources...
If you can hop on the Salt Lake Tribune article and contribute to the discussion, please do! It's a relatively small community and I think it would shake things up for them to see the story got national attention. Also, there are Republicans on there who are insisting that this is NOT a national program, so multiple voices from outside the state on this matter, particularly voices from states in which purges have taken or are taking place, would help.
If you have anything of value to offer Jim Dabakis, Chairman of the State Democratic Party, please contact the office:
825 North 300 West, Suite C400
Salt Lake City, Utah 84103