Being dead may not necessarily disqualify you from voting this year in Mississippi. That’s because some voter rolls in the Magnolia State contain more people registered to vote than people who are alive.
The dismal state of voter rolls in many Mississippi counties not only facilitates voter fraud, it violates federal law. Take Clarke County, for example: according the United States Census, in March 2015 Clarke County had 12,646 registered voters — despite having a voting-age population of only 12,549.
That’s a registration rate of over 100 percent. That’s not only implausible, it’s impossible.
On Monday, the Public Interest Legal Foundation sued the Clarke County Election Commission in federal court for violating its legal duty to keep its voter rolls current and accurate. The lawsuit should come as no surprise to the commission, which received written notice more than a year ago from the plaintiff — the American Civil Rights Union — that its voter rolls had become corrupted, but seemingly did nothing to correct the problem.
The National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) — commonly referred to as the “Motor Voter” law — requires each county to make a “reasonable effort” to remove the names of ineligible voters from the voter rolls when they either die or relocate to another voting jurisdiction. Although the law does not describe what constitutes a “reasonable effort,” having more than 100 percent of living citizens registered to vote certainly isn’t reasonable.
Mississippi is not the only offender.
In 2012, Colorado — an expected swing state — had over twenty counties with more registered voters than people alive. Another nine Colorado counties had registration rates in the high nineties. Corrupted voter rolls are especially concerning in Colorado, because it conducts all elections by mail. A ballot is automatically mailed to every registered voter in advance of Election Day. It doesn’t matter if the voter is dead. As long as the voter remains on the voter rolls, he will receive a ballot.
Exacerbating the problem is a provision of Colorado law that allows so-called “ballot collectors” to go door-to-door and collect up to ten ballots.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that such a system is a magnet for fraudsters. There is little stopping collectors from tracking down the ballots of people known to have died or moved.
Elections in Oregon and Washington are also conducted entirely by mail, and nineteen other states allow certain elections to be held by mail. As more states flirt with the idea, it is imperative that the voter roll cleanup obligations of the NVRA are enforced vigorously.
They aren’t. In fact, they are literally not enforced at all.
Since coming into office in 2009, Obama’s Department of Justice has not filed a single case to force voter roll cleanup.
Luckily, the NVRA allows private citizen groups to file lawsuits to keep the voters rolls clean. The case filed in Clarke County is just the first in the Public Interest Legal Foundation’s efforts to counter the Obama Administration’s dereliction of its duty and to protect the votes of American citizens in the 2016 election.
Noel Johnson is an attorney at Public Interest Legal Foundation, a nonprofit law firm dedicated to protecting and restoring election integrity. Contact him at [email protected].