A Voter Purge Could Be Coming Soon to a State Near You

Almost a year ago, a lot of people thought that Vanita Gupta, who led the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division under President Barack Obama, was being overly alarmist when she wrote that, “The Voter Purges Are Coming.” I wasn’t one of those people. She was as serious as a heart attack. Back then, Gupta noted that:

Lost amid the uproar over the commission’s request was a letter sent at the same time by the Justice Department’s civil rights division. It forced 44 states to provide extensive information on how they keep their voter rolls up-to-date. It cited the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, known as the Motor-Voter law, which mandates that states help voters register through motor vehicle departments.

The letter doesn’t ask whether states are complying with the parts of the law that expand opportunities to register. Instead it focuses on the sections related to maintaining the lists. That’s a prelude to voter purging.

Usually the Justice Department would ask only a single state for data if it had evidence the state wasn’t complying with Motor-Voter. But a blanket request to every state covered under that law is virtually unprecedented.

Last week, the day after the Supreme Court upheld Ohio’s plan to purge their voter rolls, the Trump administration implemented their next step in the forced voter purges that Gupta warned about.

The [Justice] department sued the state of Kentucky on Tuesday to force it to “systematically remove the names of ineligible voters from the registration records”—and Kentucky quickly agreed to comply…

The Trump administration sued Kentucky under the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, which was supposed to make voter registration more accessible by allowing people to sign up to vote at motor vehicle offices and other public agencies. The law also contained a provision requiring states to make a “reasonable effort” remove ineligible voters from the rolls…

If not done with proper safeguards, voter purges can cause eligible voters to be removed from the rolls. In 2006, a state court in Kentucky blocked an effort by then-Secretary of State Trey Grayson, a Republican, to purge the voter rolls, finding that more than 8,100 eligible Kentucky voters had been removed.

In case you live in a blue state and assume that you are safe from voter purges, it is important to note that the Motor-Voter law gives the Justice Department the authority to determine whether states are making a “reasonable effort” to remove ineligible voters from the rolls.” So a voter purge could be coming soon to a state near you.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60 .