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Purge of voter rolls could swing 2008 election
Jason Rhyne
Published: Wednesday September 12, 2007


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Using statistics and methodology that some voting experts are calling "flawed," the Justice Department's Voting Section is telling 10 US states to purge voter rolls which allegedly show more registered voters than are eligible--a house-cleaning effort AlterNet's Steven Rosenfeld says could swing the 2008 election.

"Voting Section Chief John Tanner called for the purges in letters sent this spring under an arcane provision in the National Voter Registration Act, better known as the Motor Voter law, " says Rosenfeld, adding that the letters "notify states that 10 percent or more of their election jurisdictions have problematic voter rolls. It tells states to report 'the subsequent removal from rolls of persons no longer eligible to vote."

According to experts interviewed by Rosenfeld, however, the Justice Department is misrepresenting the information they are using to make their recommendations.

"That data does not say what they purport it says," David Becker, senior voting rights counsel for People for the American Way, said. "They are saying the data shows the 10 worst voter rolls. They have a lot of explaining to do." Rosenfeld also quotes U.S. Election Assistance Commission consultant Kim Brace, who said "You are basically seeing them grasping at whatever straws are possible to make their point."

Obtaining the same data used by the Voting Section, AlterNet's analysis found that "some states facing Justice Department pressure to purge voters have long been targeted by GOP 'vote fraud' activists, especially where concentrations of minority voters have historically elected Democrats -- such as St. Louis, Philadelphia and South Dakota's Indian reservations."

"Voter roll purges, if incorrectly done, can be a factor in determining election outcomes -- particularly in tight races," Rosenfeld writes. "Looking toward the 2008 election, it appears the purges could be a new and legal way to accomplish a controversial longstanding Republican Party electoral tactic -- thinning the ranks of likely Democratic voters in states where there may be close races."

"The GOP agenda is to make it harder to vote," Joe Rich, former Voting Section Chief told AlterNet. "You purge voters. You don't register voters. This is ripe for partisan decision making. You pick the states where you go after Democrats."

Earlier this year, ePlubirus Media examined what they called a "breathtaking politicization" of the Voting Section after Rich was replaced as chief in 2005 by John Tanner.

"Tanner has waged an aggressive effort to remake the section in his own image -- not an image that most people who promote the core mission of the Voting Rights Act, which the Section is primarily responsible for enforcing, would support," ePlubirus reported.

The 10 states that received Voting Section letters, according to AlterNet, are Iowa, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Vermont.