A study just released from the Brennan Center for Justice indicates that nearly 4 million more names were deleted from registration rolls between 2014 and 2016 than in between 2006 and 2008, which was a comparable period.
That amounts to an overall increase of 33 percent. This increase vastly outpaces the increase in the number of eligible voters between that period and the present.
Purging is a normal and necessary process as it is intended to remove only those people who have died or are no longer eligible to vote in the particular district because they have moved away from the area. But aggressive purges have long been used as a voter suppression tool, and have been found to target poor and minority voters at significantly higher rates than other demographics.
Myrna Perez, an attorney for the Brennan Center, wrote an op-ed in the New York Times which reads, in part, “This fall, millions of Americans may head to the polls only to find their names aren’t on voter registration lists anymore. These voters may have to cast provisional ballots. Or worse, they could be turned away.” Perez is also a co-author of the newly released study.
The rise in the purge rate is particularly glaring in southern states with a history of racial discrimination. Up until 2013, these states were unable to make changes to their voting laws or procedures, for that very reason. But the Supreme Court effectively gutted those protective measures with its ruling on Shelby County v. Holder, after which, states and counties previously under “preclearance” were able to amend their laws without federal approval.
The Brennan Center’s report singles out Texas and Georgia, both conservative states that have begun to trend away from red and toward purple in the last few years, and where Democrats their first good chance in man years at capturing statewide offices this November. The report finds that in Texas, “approximately 363,000 more voters were erased from the rolls in the first election cycle after Shelby County than in the comparable midterm election cycle immediately preceding it.” Regarding Georgia, the study found, “[Georgia] purged twice as many voters — 1.5 million—between the 2012 and 2016 elections as it did between 2008 and 2012.
It is imperative that Americans understand their voting rights and make sure they are properly registered in the correct district before midterms.