Deputy SOS Explains Voter Purge Process

I was hoping to the Secretary of State’s office could break down the list of voters purged from the active voting rolls over the summer by party affiliation. That way we could determine whether the substantially greater decrease in Democratic registration compared to Republican and independent registration was a result of the Republican Secretary of State striking more members of the loyal opposition from the registration list or if the purge showed no sign of partisan bias and the Democratic drop was related more to other factors, like more new voters signing up as Republicans and independents and thus reducing those groups’ net losses.

Alas, Deputy Secretary of State Kea Warne informs me that in following the federally required voter list maintenance, the office does not keep track of party affiliation of purged voters. (Nertz! There’s another potentially interesting spreadsheet down the tubes.)

DSOS Warne does provide a handy review of the timeline for dropping voters from the rolls:

South Dakota’s 66 County Auditors conduct Voter List Maintenance pursuant to the Federal National Voter Registration Act.

The National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) requires voter registration file maintenance procedures to be conducted every odd-numbered year between January 1st and November 15th. The maintenance procedures identify and remove the names of those individuals who are no longer eligible to vote. The process takes a total of eight years (four general election cycles) of not voting, not updating their voter registration or responding to a previous list maintenance mailing before a voter can be purged from the voter file. A voter can stay on the active voter registration list for 4 years (through two general elections) with no activity before being moved to the inactive list. A voter will then remain on the inactive voter registration list for another 4 years (through two more general elections) with no activity before being purged from the voter file. There are required mailings that must be sent to a voter prior to being moved to the inactive file and again prior to being purged from the voter file.

All voters listed on the inactive voter registration list can still vote a regular ballot but prior to voting a ballot that voter must fill out a voter registration form so that voter’s registration record can be updated and the voter will be moved to active status for the next election. The inactive voter will only be given a ballot that he/she is currently registered for. If the voter changes the political party or an updated address moves them to another district, the voter can only vote on the ballot designated to him/her on that registration list for that election [link added; Deputy Secretary of State Kea Warne, e-mail to Dakota Free Press, 2017.09.05].

In other words, Warne confirms what I mentioned in the comment section under my previous post on the summer purge: a voter who doesn’t show up for two general elections (or any primary, special, or local election during those two cycles) gets moved from Active to Inactive. A voter who doesn’t show up through two more election cycles goes from Inactive to totally purged. Before each status change, the county auditor sends a double postcard with a reply form to the address on the voter’s most recent registration form. The county auditor only changes the voter’s status after 30 days with no reply.

The relevant state statutes are the following:

  • 12-4-19      Confirmation mailing to voters who fail to reply to a confirmation mailing–Exception.
  • 12-4-19.1      Confirmation mailing notice to registrant of proposed registration cancellation–Postcard and return card–Contents.
  • 12-4-19.2      Placement in inactive registration file by auditor.
  • 12-4-19.4      Cancellation of voter registration.

9 Responses to Deputy SOS Explains Voter Purge Process

  1. Make everybody eligible to vote ❎. If they don’t vote they don’t

  2. Ineligible to vote I assume would mean the voter has a felony?

  3. Donald Pay

    I support mandatory voting. Australia and several other countries require citizens to show up at the polls during elections, or face a monetary penalty. That doesn’t mean voters have to mark a ballot, but they have to show up and cast a blank ballot if that is what they want to do. This takes care of the issue of voter fraud, because you account for everyone. And it will probably increase voter education because if you have to do something, like get a driver license, you generally have to study for it.

  4. Gee, Owen, that would be simple! North Dakota doesn’t require any registration: you come in, you show ID, you vote. Easy!

    Jenny, yes, I would assume they’d apply info about new felony convictions, as well as documented death. But remember: felons are ineligible to vote only while serving their sentences. Once they’re out of prison and have finished their probation, they can register to vote again. Thing is, I notice when I petition or register voters, I encounter many felons who automatically assume they cannot re-register. Judges, probation officers, whoever is involved in dealing with these felons, evidently aren’t making a point of telling them how to reclaim their legal rights once they’ve paid they debt to society.

  5. John Kennedy Claussen, Sr.

    Although, I encourage everyone to vote on a regular basis. Not voting is itself a vote or a silent vote of no confidence, and it should be respected as so. If you own your home outright after years of mortgage payments does a homeowner have to remind the county from time to time that they are still living there or still see themselves as the just property owner?

    Without sounding too Trumpian, I have always felt we should have a national voting registry too, which could prevent double or multiple voter registrations, but regardless, I don’t think there should be any purging accept for death and/or felony issues or duplication. And perhaps we should adopt the system many European democracies use, where every citizen upon the age of 18 is automatically registered with the state with their domicile being determined by the state based on the best info the state has on everyone.

    And if we had a national registry or registry database, then we would also know the real truth about RV voters in South Dakota, wouldn’t we? But this database should be of a limited info exchange to lessen and or prevent the hacking of voters personal info, however….

  6. In 2008 we had two Democratic presidential campaigns running strong voter registration drives. Our numbers went up magnificently as a result of this, and other voter registration efforts in that year. Since then we’ve completely dropped the ball.

    My guess is that the Democrats being purged were registered in 2008, voted then, and haven’t been talked to by a campaign since then.

  7. Solid guess, Miller!

    JKC, such a national voter database would make it easier to prevent multiple registrations, but before implementing a national database, I’d need to see (1) how many people are double registered, (2) how many of them have ever exploited their multiple registration to cast ballots in multiple jurisdictions, (3) how many of those multiple votes have affected the outcomes of elections, and (4) what vulnerabilities such a database would pose to election integrity.

    A national database would seem to increase the chances for a determined hacker to rig the election outcome. If all voters are verified and handed their ballots based on information from a single database, Putin could tell his hackers to attack that database and mark one million voters of the party opposed to his preferred candidate in key states as “already voted”. Or, more easily, just execute a random purge of one out of ten voters. Millions of Americans will show up at the polls and be told they’ve already voted. Some of those voters will walk away, but enough of those voters will raise holy hell at the polls, slow things down, delay lots of other people’s ballot access, throw the entire election into confusion, and further undermine Americans’ confidence in their electoral system.

    Our current decentralized voter databases re like a decentralized power grid: far less vulnerable to enemy attack, requiring far more resources to make an attack pay off.

  8. John Kennedy Claussen, Sr.

    Cory, I completely understand your concerns about my idea and you make some very good points. But I am still looking for a way to force South Dakota to take a harder look at the RV voters. Maybe there is nothing there, but I think my concern with the RV voters is far more credible than Trump’s claim that he won the popular vote less the “fraudulent voters.”

  9. I’ll be happy to take that harder look, JKC, and I’d love for our Republican friends to get serious and look into these far more likely fraudulent voters. But I’d prefer that our Republican friends focus on policies (like automatic voter registration) to get and keep more people on the voter rolls.