Voter purging is as detrimental to democracy as it sounds. Voter purging is the legal practice of removing the deceased, relocated or ineligible to vote from voting rolls to keep the registration list up-to-date. A recent Brennan Center report found that Florida, Georgia and North Carolina have been purging voters at an “alarming rate”.
The Georgia Secretary of State and Republican Gubernatorial candidate, 55 year-old Brian Kemp oversees the purge in Georgia. His opponent, Yale-educated former House minority leading Stacey Abrams, would be the first black female governor in the history of the United States if elected.
Diving into the voter purge problem quickly reveals a race issue. Purging affects African-Americans at a much higher rate than other groups. A federal court halted a purge after Hurricane Katrina after justices found that one-third of the purged names came from a majority black parish in of New Orleans. More recently, in North Carolina, for example, 158 polling places were permanently closed in the 40 counties with the most African American voters just before the 2016 election, leading to a 16 percent decline in African American early voting in that state, according to Common Dreams.
Outside the ethics of allegedly purging voters along racial lines, blacks and Hispanics typically vote less often to begin with. 37 percent of whites regularly vote, compared to 31 percent of African-Americans and 24 percent of all Hispanics.
This isn’t just an ongoing problem, but an increasing one. According to The Root, 16 million registered voters were removed from state rolls between 2014 and 2016, 33 percent more than were moved between 2006 and 2008. It’s likely voter fraud fears from 2016 are carrying over to the midterms.
Eyebrows are raising by the fact that the GOP (89 percent white) is responsible for pursuing purges in red states. While many claim that purging is an impartial practice, the truth is that it tends to be lazy at best. Some states conduct purges by surname. The state deletes “multiples” of a name without verifying if the name refers to the same person. The strategy disproportionately harms minority voters, whose populations tend to overlap names more often. This means that systems often eliminate minority last names at a higher proportion.
This new wave of “Use it or Lose it” voting purges should serve as an eerie reminder not to take our right to vote for granted, and to continue to fight for that right.
Although purging is nothing new, this most recent wave serves as an important reminder that voting rules disadvantage minority voters. Please remember to exercise your right to vote on Nov. 6.