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Who Will Clean Up America's Voter Rolls?

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Los Angeles County has too many voters. An estimated 1.6 million, according to the latest calculations – which is roughly the population of Philadelphia. That’s the difference between the number of people on the county’s voter rolls and the actual number of voting age residents.

This means that L.A. is in violation of federal law, which seeks to limit fraud by requiring basic voter list maintenance to make sure that people who have died, moved, or are otherwise ineligible to vote aren’t still on the rolls.

Los Angeles County has made only minimal efforts to clean up its voter rolls for decades. It began sending notices to those 1.6 million people last month to settle a lawsuit brought by the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch.

Los Angeles County may be California’s worst offender, but 10 of the state’s 58 counties also have registration rates exceeding 100% of the voting age population. In fact, the voter registration rate for the entire state of California is 101%.

And the Golden State isn’t alone. Eight states, as well as the District of Columbia, have total voter registration tallies exceeding 100%, and in total, 38 states have counties where voter registration rates exceed 100%. Another state that stands out is Kentucky, where the voter registration rate in 48 of its 120 counties exceeded 100% last year. About 15% of America’s counties where there is reliable voter data – that is, over 400 counties out of 2,800 – have voter registration rates over 100%.

This echoes a 2012 Pew study that found that 24 million voter registrations in the United States, about one out of every eight, are “no longer valid or are significantly inaccurate” – a number greater than the current population of Florida or New York state.

Pew’s total included at least 1.8 million dead people and another 2.75 million Americans who were registered to vote in at least two states.

In sum, America’s voter rolls are a mess – and everyone knows it. While voter registration rates over 100% are not proof of fraud, they certainly create opportunities that otherwise wouldn’t exist, such as voting twice in different precincts or the potential for requesting and filling out invalid absentee ballots. At a time when both parties are warning of threats to free and fair elections, obeying federal law by updating the voter rolls would seem to be an easy fix.

Instead it has become a hot-button issue involving the tension between efforts to expand ballot access and those aimed at securing ballot integrity. The most contentious example occurred in Georgia’s 2018 governor’s race, where Democrat Stacey Abrams has still not formally conceded to now-Gov. Brian Kemp, because during his tenure as secretary of state, she observed, “more than a million citizens found their names stripped from the rolls.”

Abrams’ claim that the election was stolen from her has been repeated by many top Democrats including Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and Pete Buttigieg.

Kemp did remove 1.4 million people from the voter rolls, though no evidence of wrongdoing has emerged. Last year, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tried to contact 50 randomly chosen names purged from Georgia’s voter rolls. “Twenty clearly would be ineligible to vote in Georgia: 17 moved out of state, two were convicted of felonies and one had died. Most of the rest left a trail of address changes and disconnected telephone numbers,” the paper reported.

It is, of course, likely that some number of eligible voters........

© RealClearPolitics