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Photo by Michael Fleshman, Creative Commons license 2.0

The Brennan Center for Justice, using data from the federal government, found that since the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013, the number of Americans purged from voter rolls has increased to are you kidding me levels of 17 million people. Worse, states that had a history of discrimination against minority voters purged a greater percentage of voters in the last two years than in other parts of the country.

Before that 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision, Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 required jurisdictions that had a history of voting discrimination to get clearance from the Justice Department before making any changes to voting procedures. But in Shelby, the Supremes decided racism was largely a thing of the past, so such "preclearance" was clearly not needed anymore, and actually was very unfair to places that used to use underhanded tactics to rig the vote. After all, Republicans all over the country were emailing each other pictures of the White House surrounded by watermelon patches, not just in the South!


And yet, in a development that nobody wearing opaque goggles could have seen coming, it turns out that getting rid of preclearance resulted in a big rise in voter purges, and those purges somehow managed to be even worse in the places formerly covered by Section 5 of the VRA. To wit:

  • At least 17 million voters were purged nationwide between 2016 and 2018, similar to the number we saw between 2014 and 2016, but considerably higher than we saw between 2006 and 2008;
  • The median purge rate over the 2016–2018 period in jurisdictions previously subject to preclearance was 40 percent higher than the purge rate in jurisdictions that were not covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act;
  • If purge rates in the counties that were covered by Section 5 were the same as the rates in non-Section 5 counties, as many as 1.1 million fewer individuals would have been removed from voter rolls between 2016 and 2018.
Those findings, released yesterday, were consistent with a larger study of voter purges the Brennan Center published in 2018. The new data, covering the period from 2016 and 2018, came from the federal Election Assistance Commission (EAC), which surveys voter registration officials all over the country.
The report emphasizes that maintenance of voter rolls is a perfectly valid reason for making sure the lists are up to date. People die or move away, after all, and accurate voter rolls are a good thing. Unfortunately, it's entirely too common for purges to be conducted so sloppily that the names of eligible voters are removed as well. The nice authors at Brennan frame the issue as generously as possible:
States rely on faulty data that purport to show that a voter has moved to another state. Oftentimes, these data get people mixed up. In big states like California and Texas, multiple individuals can have the same name and date of birth, making it hard to be sure that the right voter is being purged when perfect data are unavailable.

To make matters worse, minority voters tend to have more names in common than whites, not that a state voter system would ever consider that a convenient reason to eliminate a lot of potential Democratic voters, heavens no! (Let's be clear, the Brennan report doesn't even suggest such partisan fuckery is at work, because again, they're nicer than we are.) This has very real electoral consequences:

Voters often do not realize they have been purged until they try to cast a ballot on Election Day — after it's already too late. If those voters live in a state without election day registration, they are often prevented from participating in that election.

A cynic might even suggest some states have eliminated same-day registration -- in the name of fighting "voter fraud" -- precisely to make sure eligible voters who were wrongly purged can't fix their registration status. But gosh, where would anyone get such an idea?

While the term "voter suppression" never appears in the report, the data are what you'd call remarkably suggestive, and we don't mean sexy, you pervs:

Prior to Shelby County, jurisdictions covered under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act collectively had purge rates right in line with the rest of the country. A major finding in last year's report was that jurisdictions that used to have federal oversight over their election practices began to purge more voters after they no longer had to pre-clear proposed election changes.

What's more, the 2016-2018 data show that gap between historically discriminatory jurisdictions and the rest of the country getting a little bit wider, even compared to the 2014-2016 data. The bastards are getting better at it. The report notes some folks predicted a "one-time jump" in purges following Shelby, after which those states' purge rates would soon fall to the same as other states. Nope, nothing of the sort happened.

And wouldn't you know it, if the purge rates in counties formerly covered by Section 5 of the VRA had stayed consistent with the rest of the country, a lot more people would be eligible to vote. Those formerly covered jurisdictions

would have purged 1.1 million fewer voters between 2016 and 2018. In our report last year, we noted that Shelby County was likely responsible for the purge of 2 million voters over four years in these counties.

Now, that may sound like evidence of some massive fuckery against minority voters, but don't worry: Republicans will find a handful of improperly registered voters somewhere, then proclaim the real problem is that millions more people weren't denied their right to vote.

[Brennan Center / Brennan Center 2018 report / Photo by Michael Fleshman (2011), Creative Commons license 2.0]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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