Hundreds Of Voters Purged

Cross-Check Program Causes No Issue Locally

Posted: October 9, 2013

 

HARRISONBURG — Dozens of registered voters in the area were retained on local voter rolls despite a new state-sponsored program identifying them for potential removal.

 

Yet registrars in the area did not report any major issues with fixing the situation, and local Democrats, whose state party has sued over the situation, find nothing alarming about the local purging.

 

Virginia joined the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program last year, sharing voter data with 21 other states to help guard against voter fraud.

 

That led the Virginia State Board of Elections to recently notify registrars around the commonwealth of 57,000 people who may need to be purged from the commonwealth’s rolls because they are registered in another state. Elections officials asked registrars to verify each person’s status.

 

Larger jurisdictions, such as Loudoun and Chesterfield counties, are bypassing the activity until after the Nov. 5 election, wanting more time to confirm the program’s findings for thousands of names.

 

But last week, the Democratic Party of Virginia sued the state board, claiming voters are at risk of being wrongly purged and blaming Republicans for creating a system that will suppress vote totals. Registrars in large jurisdictions have stated problems with the data, including people who shouldn’t be purged.

 

In Virginia, GOP nominees control state and local election boards when the governor is Republican, as is the case with Gov. Bob McDonnell, who is named in the suit. Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who is seeking McDonnell’s expiring seat, is also named, and his campaign has called the lawsuit politically motivated.

 

In Harrisonburg, Democratic Committee Chairwoman Deb Fitzgerald said she has no concerns about the city election board’s work on the matter.

 

For area jurisdictions, they had far fewer names to check than places such as Loudoun, which helped the process move smoothly, registrars said.

 

“It was a very pure check,” Harrisonburg Registrar Debbie Logan said. “It’s not like we just took them all off. We researched every one of them.”

 

Harrisonburg saved 17 names on its voter roll out of 355 people the state sent it to check. Rockingham County kept 36 names out of 249; Shenandoah County retained 39 out of 198; and Page County kept 12 out of 92 after verifying all information.

 

In most of Harrisonburg’s cases, people on the list, particularly college students, had moved and didn’t realize they were registered in two states, Logan said. They weren’t trying to deceive the system, she said.

 

The state board provided registrars with a person’s name and dates of when they registered in Virginia and another state. If the registration date for the other state came after that of Virginia’s, the person was removed from the voter list and notified via mail.

 

But if registrars found that someone had voted in Virginia since registering in another state, that person was kept on rolls.

 

It helps that the area has a smaller population of voters, compared to Northern Virginia.

 

“We are little and we knew a lot of the folks,” Page County Registrar Carol Gaunt said.

 

The city and Rockingham County each had one person respond with concerns. In both cases, the situations were easily fixed — a city woman forgot she had registered at the Ohio Department of Motor Vehicles, and a county man who splits his time for work in Ohio and the county was registered in Ohio, but preferred Rockingham.

 

“It was a labor-intensive process,” Rockingham County Registrar Lisa Gooden said. “It wasn’t just, ‘Let’s remove them.’ ... Communication is such a vital component here with other voter registration offices, whether it’s within the commonwealth or someone outside.”

 

Virginia has a “great system” that tracks people who register in two places within the commonwealth, Logan said. For example, someone would immediately be removed from Harrisonburg’s voter list if he or she registers in Charlottesville, and vice versa.

 

“We never have an issue with a person in Virginia being registered in two places,” she said. “I wish the whole country would use it.”

 

Contact Preston Knight at 574-6272 or pknight@dnronline.com



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