Study finds higher rates of voter roll purging in states with histories of racial discrimination

Study finds higher rates of voter roll purging in states with histories of racial discrimination
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States with a history of racial discrimination purge voter rolls at a higher rate than others, according to a new analysis released Thursday.

Using data from the Election Assistance Commission, the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice found that, between 2016 and 2018, counties that were previously subject to "preclearance" under the Voting Rights Act (VRA) purged voter rolls at a rate 40 percent higher than counties that were not. 

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Under a provision of the 1965 VRA, jurisdictions with histories of racial discrimination had to get approval from the Department of Justice to change voting policies, a process known as preclearance.

The Supreme Court struck down that requirement in the 2013 case Shelby County v. Holder, meaning the nine preclearance states — Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia — no longer required federal approval to change their voting laws.

Overall, at least 17 million voters were purged nationwide in the two-year span analyzed.

If former preclearance jurisdictions had the same purge rates as other jurisdictions, an estimated 1.1 million voters would not have been removed from rolls in that time period, the Brennan Center said.

The report noted that while some voter roll purges may be for good reason, such as a person moving, eligible voters are often removed from rolls, too.

"Troublingly, minority voters are more likely to share names than white voters, potentially exposing them to a greater risk of being purged," the researchers said. "Voters often do not realize they have been purged until they try to cast a ballot on Election Day — after it’s already too late."