The Dangers of Making Assumptions About Voter Rolls

By Michael Slater February 6, 2017
(Femi Adi/Creative Commons)

Last November, 7,500 reinstated Ohio voters—who were wrongfully purged from voter rolls between 2011 and 2014—reportedly turned out to vote.

This is a big deal.

Between 2011 and 2014, Ohio developed a voter list maintenance plan that assumed people who didn’t vote had moved. The state then sent them a non-forwardable postcard. If the postcard was returned, the voter was put on the inactive list. If they then missed two federal elections, they were removed from the voter rolls. Sounds reasonable.

However, the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) prohibits removing voters based on non-voting. Our colleagues at Demos sued Ohio, arguing it is incorrect to assume that nonvoters are movers and then to follow the notice and removal process set out in the NVRA for movers. A federal court agreed with Demos and re-instated the voters purged as a result of the policy in 2016.

Low and behold, 7,500 people who were not regular voters AND whose mail had been returned cast their ballots in the 2016 general election. This proves once again what you do when you make assumptions.