New Analysis: Voter Purges Disproportionately Remove Minorities, Seniors, Young People

John Lewis being beaten by state troopers, March 7, 1965

John Lewis being beaten by state troopers, March 7, 1965

Catalist, a company that provides voting list data to progressive organizations, is among the closest observers of changes to voting rolls around the country. In analysis shared with ThinkProgress, the company observes that since November 2008, certain groups of living residents have been far more likely to be purged from the voting roles than others.

Their data suggests that beyond the wide variation in purge rates across states, there is significant variation within states:

In many states, certain parts of the state electorate, both geographically and demographically, are much more likely to be dropped off of the voter rolls than others. More specifically, some general trends that we see are focused on:
a. Urbanity – cities are getting disproportionately purged
b. Race – minorities are getting disproportionately purged
c. Marital Status – unmarried people are getting disproportionately purged
d. Age – younger (< 40 years old) and older (> 65 years old) voters are purged more frequently than middle-aged voters
e. County effects – there are big differences across county lines, pointing to sharp discontinuities based on arbitrary political boundaries that do not correspond with inherent behavioral differences

Catalist notes that more than 2.7 million living people who voted in 2008 have since been purged from the voter rolls. Among those, African American voters are “1.5 times more likely to be purged than Caucasian voters, nationally.”

These findings are consistent with what we have seen in Florida with Gov. Rick Scott’s (R) error-riddled purge attempts. A Miami Herald analysis showed that “Hispanic, Democratic and independent-minded voters [were] the most likely to be targeted” by that effort.

Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), who led the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee’s efforts in the 1960s to ensure voting rights for all Americans, said last month that these purges of eligible voters from the rolls make him “want to just cry, after people gave a little blood, after some people were beaten, shot and murdered trying to help people become registered voters.” He lamented that “states throughout the nation come along with tactics to make it hard, to make it difficult for people to participate. We should be making it easy and simple and open up the political process and let all of the people come in.”

Instead, Scott and others are pushing efforts that may make it impossible for these millions of U.S. citizens to exercise their right to vote. These numbers show that regardless of whether the intent of these purges is discriminatory, their effect clearly is.