Some Voter Registration News

Update: Hmmm. Seems like The Ledger Tally bureau, Bill Rufty, and I all decided to touch on this issue at the same time. Good. But from Lori Edwards told me, it’s not at all clear to me that the letter from Kurt Browning that Bill references is correct, at least in the state as a whole.

Polk Supervisor of Elections Lori Edwards came to my Kiwanis Club Friday and gave a good talk about the constitutional and charter amendments on the ballot this year. (For my part, I urge everyone to vote against all of them except the measures making it harder to amend the constitution or charter by referendum. But then I’m a small-r republican in that sense.)

Afterward, she and I chatted about voter registration issues. I’ve been hearing quite a bit about the controversial rule, which took effect Sept. 8, requiring that new registrations match precisely social security numbers or addresses on driver licenses. There’s been quite a bit of talk suggesting that a) this requires voters to provide ID that matches SS # or DL address at the time they vote b) the rule is causing a major purge of new voters across the state from voters rolls.

After talking to Lori, I can say A is not true.

B is far more complicated and confusing, and I can only speak for Polk.

Here’s what I took away from what Edwards said, and hope she’ll correct me if I misunderstood anything: When someone registers to vote, they fill out an application, which the local supervisor of elections processes and then sends to the state division of elections where the voter’s name and information is run against a social security and driver license database. If the information on the voter’s application does not match information in one of those two databases, the application is spit back to the local supervisor and not added to the voter rolls. It’s up to the supervisor to decide what to do with the registration. In Edwards’ case, her office makes many calls and works hard to resolve any discrepancies so the voter can get registered. However, she says many other supervisors of elections in the state have software that automatically drops new registrations if the state spits them back.  

This rule has actually been in place for some time. The NAACP challenged it with a lawsuit, which remains unresolved. Because of that suit, the state suspended the rule starting in the spring. And thousands of new registrations were added to the rolls between that time and Sept. 8, whether or not they matched the database information. The rule was then reinstated on Sept. 8, with no real explanation for why. (I’m sure it has nothing to do with our Republican governor’s alarm at the massive Obama voter registration operation in the state.)

So how many new registrations are getting thrown out?

Edwards says her office has received about 12,000 applications – “pieces of paper,” as she put it – since Sept. 8. Many of those are multiple duplicates. Apparently, people are filling out several applications because campaigns presumably are targeting many of same spots over and over again as they seek to maximize voters they perceive to be favorable.

Ultimately, only about 70 new registrations have been rejected by the state since Sept. 8. Of those, Edwards said her office has resolved the discrepancies for all but a handful – fewer than 10, she said. Overwhelmingly, the 70 registrations rejected by the state belonged to people with Hispanic names. In most cases, the rejections resulted from data entry errors – slightly misspelled names, misordered multiple surnames, even spacing between names. There is no evidence of any systemic or even marginal voter registration fraud.  

I asked Edwards, who is a Democrat in a non-partisan office, how the new registrations are breaking. She said Democrats have an almost 2-1 advantage. I think she said there have been about 3,000 new registrations added in Polk since the Sept. 8 rule went in place, but I’m a little unclear.

Edwards also predicted a massive turnout of up to 74 percent. That’ll make my man Al Whittle happy.