Voter caging and purging

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Voter caging and voter purging are two types of voter suppression. Caging is the practice of sending mail to addresses on the voter rolls (of voters who are identified as unlikely to support the candidate of the group that is running the caging operation) and then compiling a list of the mail that is returned undelivered, and using that list to purge or challenge the registration status of voters on the grounds that the voters on the list do not legally reside at their registered addresses.[1]

Voter purging

Voter registration lists, also called voter rolls, are the gateway to voting. A citizen typically cannot cast a vote that will count unless her name appears on the voter registration rolls. Yet state and local officials regularly remove—or "purge"—citizens from voter rolls. In fact, thirty-nine states and the District of Columbia reported purging more than 13 million voters from registration rolls between 2004 and 2006.

Why purges are done

Purges, if done properly, are an important way to ensure that voter rolls are dependable, accurate, and up-to-date. Precise and carefully conducted purges can remove duplicate names, and people who have moved, died, or are otherwise ineligible.

Problems with purging

Purging creates a problem when an eligible, registered citizen shows up to vote and discovers that his or her name has been removed from the voter list. Different states exercise very different practices as to how they maintain their voter rolls. Some critics of the process such as the Brennan Center for Justice maintain that sometimes the process that is "shrouded in secrecy, prone to error, and vulnerable to manipulation."[2]

Remedies for wrongful purging

In 2002 Congress mandated that all states enact the Help America Vota Act to help fix some of the problems faced in the 2000 elections. HAVA requires persons who claim to be registered to vote in a federal election in a jurisdiction but are not on the voter registration list or are otherwise alleged to be ineligible be offered and permitted to cast a provisional, or paper, ballot to be verified and counted after the election. In the 2004 election 1.6 million provisional ballots were cast, and over 1 million were counted. Seventy percent of provisional ballots cast in states that allow provisional ballots to be cast anywhere in the proper jurisdiction were counted as valid. In states requiring that provisional ballots be cast in the proper precinct, 62 percent were counted.[3]


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