As many as 134,000 registered voters in Oklahoma could be at risk of being purged from voter rolls if they fail to take the steps necessary to avoid that before Saturday.
State election officials mailed more than 181,000 address confirmation cards earlier this year to those on voter rolls who have not cast ballots since the 2016 general election, have duplicate registration, or have no driver’s license. It’s something they are required to do no later than June 1 in odd-numbered years “to protect the integrity” of the election system.
While this biennial procedure may bring some integrity to the process, it is a double-edged sword that appears to be wielded more recently with malice than benevolence. The Brennan Center for Justice found almost 4 million more names were purged from voter rolls between 2014 and 2016 than between 2006 and 2008, “far outstripping growth in both registered voters and total population.”
This surge in the purge of voter rolls across the nation happened to coincide with the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder. The high court struck down a provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that required extra scrutiny of election laws in states where there was a history of racial discrimination.
Granted, Oklahoma was not among those states that required pre-clearance prior to that decision. And other states have been much more aggressive than Oklahoma with regard to its voter purges.
But lawmakers here have amended the law twice since the Shelby County case. And the fact nearly 75 percent of those who were sent address confirmation cards this past spring have failed to respond nearly 60 days later raises questions about whether the process put in place is proper.
An extensive analysis of the issue conducted by the Brennan Center in 2008 “uncovered evidence that election administrators were purging people based on error-ridden practices.” In its report published a decade later, researchers “discovered that little about purge practices has improved and that a number of things have, in fact, gotten worse.”
Should state election officials realize a return rate no greater than 25 percent, we hope they would undertake an examination of the process — or encourage lawmakers to include it as part of interim study — to ensure maximum participation in the electoral process. It would be shameful to be purging voters from the rolls without a legitimate cause.