Monday Numbers: Voter purges reflect a Jim Crow shift

Stifling the voices that need to be heard the most:

17 million – the number of voters removed from rolls nationwide between 2016 and 2018

40 percent – how much higher the median purge rate was over the 2016 to 2018 period in jurisdictions previously subject to preclearance versus jurisdictions that were not covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act

1.1 million – the number of voters who wouldn’t have been removed from voter rolls between 2016 and 2018 if purge rates in the counties that were covered by Section 5 were the same as the rates in non-Section 5 counties.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Rumors of a "post-racial" society, especially when it comes to voting access, are greatly exaggerated. Understand, the Voting Rights Act was not some sort of overreaction by the Federal government to a few isolated incidents; Southern Congressmen and Senators worked hand-in-hand with their state-level counterparts to actively deny Constitutional rights to tens of thousands of African-Americans, and that oppression thrived in the ambiguity of the times:

By 1965 concerted efforts to break the grip of state disfranchisement had been under way for some time, but had achieved only modest success overall and in some areas had proved almost entirely ineffectual. The murder of voting-rights activists in Philadelphia, Mississippi, gained national attention, along with numerous other acts of violence and terrorism. Finally, the unprovoked attack on March 7, 1965, by state troopers on peaceful marchers crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, en route to the state capitol in Montgomery, persuaded the President and Congress to overcome Southern legislators' resistance to effective voting rights legislation. President Johnson issued a call for a strong voting rights law and hearings began soon thereafter on the bill that would become the Voting Rights Act.

Congress determined that the existing federal anti-discrimination laws were not sufficient to overcome the resistance by state officials to enforcement of the 15th Amendment. The legislative hearings showed that the Department of Justice's efforts to eliminate discriminatory election practices by litigation on a case-by-case basis had been unsuccessful in opening up the registration process; as soon as one discriminatory practice or procedure was proven to be unconstitutional and enjoined, a new one would be substituted in its place and litigation would have to commence anew.

Bolding mine, because that sounds eerily familiar. The NC GOP has demonstrated that gaining partisan advantage is paramount to them, and issues of Constitutionality or fairness rarely enter the equation. We *all* need to be not only observant of how our voters rolls are being "maintained," but also cognizant of the fact that many voters don't understand the requirements of keeping their registration valid. If you move down the street, your voter registration (and driver's license, and vehicle registration, and insurance, etc.) needs to be updated. We still have one-stop early voting (which we had to fight for), so you can change your voter registration address there. But ideally, that registration should be done prior to early voting, because this is the process that follows same-day registration:

Within two business days of the person’s registration, the county board of elections will verify the registrant’s driver license or social security number, update the voter registration database, search for possible duplicate registrations, and proceed to verify the registrant’s address by mail. The registrant’s vote will be counted unless the county board of elections determines that he or she is not qualified to vote.

Our county BoE's are not staffed to handle a whole lot of these types of votes, and no doubt some get tossed that are valid. So when you're talking to people about registering, try to get them to do it ahead of time, and avoid the, "you can do it this way or this way" approach.



Hat-tip to Melissa Boughton

When Chris Fitzsimon announced he was leaving NC Policy Watch, this Monday Numbers thing was one (of many) reasons I was concerned. But I shouldn't have been, because Chris and Rob built a fantastic team.