PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea has identified roughly 150,000 people erroneously on the state’s voters rolls and has begun to clean them up, she told The Providence Journal on Tuesday.
Nearly 65,000 names have been removed since Gorbea took office in 2015, and another 30,000 have been marked as “inactive,” a first step toward removing them.
“It’s not really fraud,” Gorbea said. “It’s really just inaccuracies.”
When people move, especially when it’s not near an election, people often forget to tell voter registration officials that they’re gone, she said.
State and federal law set out a cumbersome process to remove people from the voter rolls: After they don’t respond to an official elections mailing, they can be marked inactive. If they fail to vote in the next two federal elections, they can be removed. “It has a lot of very strict protections on how and when you can remove people from the voter rolls,” said Gorbea.
The secretary of state has spent about $60,000 to clean up the voter list, including $38,000 to send mailings to people who may have moved and $21,000 for membership in the Electronic Registration Information Center, a cooperative of 20 states, plus the District of Columbia, that share voter and motor vehicle records to detect people who move. The cooperative, known as ERIC, has identified more than 34,000 Rhode Island voters who may have moved.
Two notable holes in ERIC’s coverage, Florida and Massachusetts, could account for thousands of Rhode Islanders who have moved.
Gorbea acknowledged that, especially given voter laws that guard against removing legitimate voters, the voter list can never be perfect. “There isn’t a silver bullet against bloat on the voter rolls.”
But, she said, “having clean voter lists [is] critical to preserving the integrity of our elections and ensure that elections are fair, fast and accurate.”
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