No Wholesale Voter Roll Purging in Oklahoma

Heather News

In light of recent national controversy over purging voter rolls in Florida and Texas, the Tulsa League has received several phone calls questioning how Oklahoma’s election boards maintain their voter rolls. States’ practices in maintaining these rolls vary, but must be in compliance with the 1993 Voter Registration Act.

In response to these queries, the Tulsa League asked the Oklahoma State Election Board how they purge their voter rolls. Kathy Walker, an information officer with the Oklahoma State Election Board, said, in accordance with the 1993 Voter Registration Act, they follow the specific process as outlined below: 1) If an individual has not voted within the time period of two general elections (held every two years), the state election board sends mail to that person at their last registered address in May of the following (odd-numbered) year; 2) If no response is received from the voter by August of that year, that voter is placed on an inactive list; and 3) If no response is made or vote is taken (voters on the inactive list can still vote) in the next general election, the voter is removed from the rolls. Anyone removed from the rolls must re-register. Walker said there is no wholesale purging of voter lists in Oklahoma.

A recent ruling the U.S. District Court in Florida states that Florida’s program to identify non-citizens, using the Department of Homeland Security’s citizenship database, is in violation of some provisions of the 1993 Voter Registration Act. The strength of the ruling, however, is diluted by Florida’s having already stopped its program to purge their voter rolls. The judge stated that if this program is begun again, the courts will have to revisit Florida’s conduct and issue a new ruling.

Meanwhile, the state of Texas has, largely under the national radar, proceeded with a purge of voter rolls that appears to be targeting under-age-30 voters, minorities, and many other eligible voters. According to the Houston Chronicle, the purge is of huge proportions:

“Statewide, more than 1.5 million voters could be on the path to cancellation if they fail to vote or to update their records for two consecutive federal elections: One out of every 10 Texas voters’ registration is currently suspended. Among voters under 30, the figure is about one in five. (“Watch Out for Voter Registration Cancellations,” Lise Olsen, Houston Chronicle, 6/7/12)

Knowing who in our federal, state and local governments has responsibility and control to maintain voter rolls, and what the law has decided is fair and equitable in regard to voting eligibility, protects your vote. Voting is a basic right of every American citizen.