Thursday, September 09, 2010

List Maintenance or Voter Purging?

Recently, The Brennan Center came across an article in the Levittown Tribune discussing Nassau County’s new optical scanner machines. The article reported that the County Board of Elections Office was sending out 900,000 voter check cards and purging any names which came back as undeliverable. We found this to be particularly troubling because the reported practices would have violated federal law.

Under federal law, for election officials to purge a voter from their registration rolls, two conditions must be met. First, the registrant must fail to respond to a forwardable address confirmation notice with a pre-addressed response card with prepaid postage. Second, the registrant must fail to vote in two consecutive federal general elections. Furthermore, systematic purges cannot occur within 90 days of an election. The Brennan Center’s report on voter purges details purging practices extensively and ReformyNY has blogged on this subject before. As we have discussed, lists used to purge voters from the rolls are more often than not full of errors which lead to disenfranchisement.

The Brennan Center contacted the Nassau County Board of Elections to discuss their list maintenance practices. We were relieved to learn that the process mentioned in the article was not being used in Nassau County and we were assured that Nassau County is complying with federal law regarding its list maintenance practices.

Still … the law in this area is not well understood, and it's easy for election officials around the state and country to make mistakes and improperly purge voters. We encourage voters around New York to make sure their county officials are following the law.

And as a precautionary measure we also encourage all our readers in Nassau County to verify their voter registration status with the Nassau County Board of Elections. Readers who have recently moved should look at the Brennan Center’s Voting After You Move: A Guide. Should you have reason to believe your county may be unlawfully purging voters from its voter registration rolls, please contact the Brennan Center.

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