Broward Needs to Trim Its Voting Lists, Group Tells Judge
October 25, 2017
This article by Larry Barszewski was published October 24, 2017 by The Sun Sentinel.
The voter rolls in Broward County include thousands of people who probably aren’t eligible to vote. Elections supervisor Brenda Snipes acknowledges that.
But Snipes says her office is doing everything required by law to maintain the list.
A nonprofit group — the American Civil Rights Union — insists she needs to do more. The conservative-leaning organization sued Snipes as part of a larger national effort to remove dead people, convicted felons, non-citizens and non-residents from registration lists. Those names, the ACRU says, increase the chances of voter fraud.
The two sides now have filed their final recommendations to U.S. District Court Judge Beth Bloom, whose decision could influence practices across the country. When she’ll rule, no one knows.
Broward’s elections office is one of more than 140 nationwide that have been accused of having more registered voters than eligible voting-age residents. Several organizations have threatened lawsuits if the counties don’t get more aggressive at removing ineligible voters from their lists. The Broward case was the first to go to trial, and it’s seen as a possible precedent for others.
The ACRU contends that many elections offices are not living up to the requirements of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, which is better known as the “Motor Voter Act.”
The law made it easier for people to register to vote by allowing them to do it at the same time they apply for a driver’s license, but the ACRU says more attention needs to be paid to the sections that require voter lists be kept accurate and current.
The group cited “various errors, omissions, and lack of consistent practices” by Snipes’ office. The ACRU contends the office does not have sufficient written procedures for maintaining voter lists, that it needs to do more mailings to identify voters who no longer live in the county, and that it must work harder to find ineligible voters.
A local union, Local 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, joined the case on Snipes’ side because of concern its members could have their ability to vote threatened. It filed its own proposal for the judge to consider.
The union’s attorneys argued that Snipes is following reasonable procedures and no additional requirements are needed.
“The office cannot remove an individual based solely on information provided by a third party, but instead must verify the information first to ensure it is not removing an eligible voter from the rolls,” the union said in a court brief. “Thus, it is possible for a voter to remain on the rolls after he or she has died.”
Other procedures that inflate voter rolls are also built into the system to prevent eligible voters from mistakenly being removed from the voting list, Snipes’ attorneys argued.
They said that when evidence shows a voter has moved, the office is required to move that voter to an “inactive” list. Elections officials still must wait for that person to not vote for two general election cycles — which occur every two years — before changing the status to “ineligible” to vote.
The ACRU countered that Snipes could send out a mailer, forwardable to a person’s new address, requesting the person to respond that they no longer live in the county. That would allow Snipes to remove their name immediately from the voter list, attorneys said.