West Virginia has removed over five percent of the voters on its rolls since the start of the year, relying in part on a controversial program run by Kris Kobach.
The purge, led by a secretary of state who has expressed troubling views on voting access, may run afoul of state law.
Local election clerks have canceled the registrations of 64,473 people this year, Secretary of State Mac Warner (pictured) said this week, boasting of “dramatic results” from a collaboration between the state and county offices.
All states have a procedure for purging from the rolls voters who have died, moved, or become ineligible, as well as those who haven’t voted for years and don’t respond to attempts to confirm their address. But several factors mean West Virginia’s purge is drawing scrutiny.
For one thing, the removals, underway since early this year, may be violating state law, which says that any systematic purging of the rolls “shall begin no earlier than October 1 of each odd-numbered year.”
A spokesman for Warner’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment on that claim.
Then there’s how the purge is being conducted. To help identify voters who have left the state, West Virginia has used the Electronic Reporting Information Project, a well-regarded inter-state data-sharing program that was championed by Warner’s predecessor, Democrat Natalie Tennant. But Warner has said that his office also has used another program, Crosscheck. Run by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the leader of the White House’s voting commission, Crosscheck is notorious for wrongly flagging eligible voters as ineligible. One study found that Crosscheck “would eliminate about 200 registrations used to cast legitimate votes for every one registration used to cast a double vote.”
Julie Archer of West Virginia Citizens Action Group told The Daily Democracy her organization is concerned about the removals and the use of Crosscheck.
“We will be taking a closer look at who has been removed and why to make sure that proper procedures were followed and that eligible voters haven’t been purged,” Archer said. “We agree that voter rolls should be accurate and up-to-date. However, we need to make sure we aren’t disenfranchising eligible voters in the process.”
Warner spokesman Mike Queen told The Daily Democracy the state uses social security numbers if available, or other identification, to ensure its list of voters to be removed doesn’t contain false positives.
“If we believe they could be the same, but we’re not sure, we leave them both on there,” Queen said. “We err on the side of caution.”
Some of Warner’s past statements, too, aren’t helping instill confidence. In a debate during last year’s campaign, he said he opposed letting people register to vote online because it encouraged young people to register.
“You have all these kids that are signing up to vote, to be registered. What is the real intent?” Warner asked. “Are they really intending to vote, or are they doing it to get a second ID, or some other purpose, and they have no intention of voting?”
“We want interested, educated people participating in the voting process,” Warner added.
States’ processes for removing voters from the rolls have become a focal point of controversy lately. Georgia is under scrutiny for removing nearly 600,000 inactive voters — nearly ten percent of all its registered voters — in one swoop last week. The state has said it was part of its routine procedure for ensuring accurate rolls. Meanwhile, voting rights advocates fear Kobach will use the White House voting commission to help states remove eligible voters.
And the Supreme Court is set to hear a case next term challenging Ohio’s process for removing inactive voters, which is similar to Georgia’s. The justices are likely to issue a ruling that clarifies how far states can go in removing inactive voters.