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141 Counties in the United States have more registered voters than they have adult residents

A public interest law firm is threatening to bring lawsuits against more than 100 counties across the United States that appear to have more registered voters than living residents.

The Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF), a law firm dedicated to election integrity based in Indiana, recently sent statutory notice letters to election officials in 141 counties putting them on notice of their discoveries. The group says if action is not taken to correct the questionable voter rolls, they will bring lawsuits against every single county on the list.

[...] The group used federally produced data to come to their conclusions.

My first thought was that this might involve college towns where students are not residents, but are registered to vote. My second was that, as mentioned briefly in the article, that this might be due to people moving without removing their registration (possibly also including deceased voters). There are explanations available without voter fraud, but it is concerning if true.

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    Some counties with limited budgets may purge the voter registration records only once every 4 years, following the presidential election, by deleting those who did not vote. – GEdgar Sep 28 '15 at 15:23
  • This is the start of a whole legal process to decide the truth of the matter. It's pretty pointless for one website (us) to try to decide in advance what the truth is. – DJClayworth Sep 28 '15 at 15:35
  • @DJClayworth: Eh, depends on whether the proposed lawsuit is an actual attempt at proving the truth, or if this is just a publicity stunt. There's a difference between "we have filed a lawsuit on this matter" and publicly saying "we think this person may have done this bad thing and we may go to trial if that's the case." The first indicates proof. The latter usually means they're trying to stir up trouble. It's difference between taking your ex to court for things they stole and talking in a bar about how they stole stuff and you'll probably take them to court. – Sean Duggan Sep 28 '15 at 15:39
  • @SeanDuggan Quoting from the article you're linking to: “Based on our comparison of publicly available information published by the U.S. Census Bureau and the federal Election Assistance Commission ...” Doesn't that answer your question? – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Sep 28 '15 at 16:12
  • You're right. Somehow I managed to skip over how they got their data. If their data is good (and I'm assuming that the small margin of error for things like student voters, deceased voters, and people who've emigrated is a drop in the bucket compared to the >50% of the populace who doesn't vote), it sounds like they do have a case. – Sean Duggan Sep 28 '15 at 16:35
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While it would be difficult to verify the exact number, the claim is plausible.

De-registration of voters when they are no longer eligible to vote is not something that happens efficiently, for a few reasons:

  • It is a difficult, time-consuming administrative task. Counties don't have good information on who is resident at any given time.
  • There is no real incentive for counties to de-register people.
  • Purging voter rolls raises fears of disenfranchisement, so there are often safeguards making it hard to remove voters.

Take the policy for Florida as an example:

Under Florida law, a registered voter may only be removed from the rolls if he or she requests in writing to be removed, if a Supervisor of Election received notice from another state election official that the voter has registered out-of-state, if the voter is ineligible, or if the voter fails to respond to an address confirmation final and there is no voting or voter registration record activity for two subsequent general election cycles.

And even this only says the voter may be removed, not must be removed.

This page also gives some numbers for Florida: over the last 21 years, 15 million voters have been registered, but only 7.2 million have been de-registered. While the population of Florida has increased, the 7.8 million additional registered voters are several million more than the state's population growth over the same period.

There are several programs aiming to compare registrations between states and clean up voter rolls. Supposedly one of these efforts found "five million questionable registrations" (though it isn't clear exactly what this means). The mere existence of these programs suggests the states believe this is a huge problem--and none of the programs covers more than half of the states, so they will only be able to identify a subset of all duplicate registrations.

In short, it is a virtual certainty that nowhere near 100% of ineligible voters are removed from voter rolls in a timely manner. And this makes it plausible that some counties may end up with more registered voters than actual residents.

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    good grief, you don't update the voter rolls every year by default? – Brian Drummond Nov 6 '16 at 22:16

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