17 million U.S. voters purged from voter rolls

The majority of these purged voter rolls come from states with a history of racial discrimination.

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A new report published by the Brennan Center for Justice has stated at least 17 million people were removed from voter poles between 2016 and 2018. This report also shows a particularly significant increase in purged U.S. voter rolls in states with a history of racial discrimination. 

“As the country prepares for the 2020 election, election administrators should take steps to ensure that every eligible American can cast a ballot next November. Election day is often too late to discover that a person has been wrongfully purged,” says the Brennan Center. 

In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court had weakened the protections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and this seems to be a result. That year, Shelby County v. Holder ruling released counties with a history of voter discrimination from federal oversight. Even though there are federal laws protecting voters from improperly being removed from the rolls, some Republican-controlled states have been doing so illegally. 

Virginia, Texas, Georgia, and Arizona are the main states that have removed voter names at a much higher rate these last two years. 

“There is something about the structural and systemic nature of these states that has caused them to look differently at least with respect to purges. I think this shows a certain stickiness to their history of discrimination. This demonstrates to me that the Supreme Court was wrong in its assessment that there is nothing special or unique in these states anymore and that they moved on,” says Myrna Pérez, director of the Brennan Center’s voting rights and elections program.

Typically election officials remove voters from rolls when they can no longer vote in that community, for example, when someone passes away or moves to another state. Eligible voters, however, are also being removed without their knowledge and find out when they arrive to cast their vote. 

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