Are You Registered to Vote? Really?

Don’t assume anything, confirm your registration

With all the attention that voting machines have received over the last few years, many people don’t realize that the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) addressed more than just voting equipment. HAVA also required substantial changes to the way voter registration lists are managed, requiring that all states maintain a single statewide database:

“…each State, acting through the chief State election official, shall implement, in a uniform and nondiscriminatory manner, a single, uniform, official, centralized, interactive computerized statewide voter registration list defined, maintained, and administered at the State level that contains the name and registration information of every legally registered voter in the State…”

HAVA also describes, together with the National Voter Registration Act (better known as the Motor Voter Act) the critically important conditions which determine whether a voter can be removed from the voter rolls. This means that in New York and other states using the new computerized voter lists for the first time that there could be many thousands of voters showing up at the polls on Election Day assuming they are registered to vote who will find to their dismay that they are not.

There’s various reasons that a voter might be flagged for removal – clerical errors, data transfer errors, address mismatches with DMV databases, a matching death record in the Social Security database, a match against New York’s felon list, duplicate registration records from multiple counties (this last one could easily happen if you have moved from one county to another in the past, and didn’t explicitly deregister from your previous county).

If your registration has been flagged, the local County Board is required to send you a written notice that a problem has been detected and you are at risk of being purged from the voter rolls. But if this notice is sent to the wrong address, or you don’t notice it among the pile of junk mail and toss it, you could find on Election Day that you have been ‘purged’ from the rolls (in which case, you have the right to a provisional or “affidavit” ballot, but these ballots will not be counted on Election Day and may not be counted at all). So what can you do to ensure that you are indeed registered to vote in this important election? You’ve got to be proactive.

As required by HAVA, New York State provides an online “check your registration” page. This is alright as far as it goes, and will tell you whether your current status is ‘Active’ or ‘Inactive’ (active means you are registered and can vote). But unfortunately it does not tell you if your record has been flagged as needing review and has not yet been processed by the county. So it is possible that you could check the page today and see that your status is ‘Active’, but find out on Election Day that it has changed to Inactive because the county processed your flagged record after you checked it and decided you were not legally registered.

Given this potential, NYVV is recommending that voters take the following steps to confirm that you are registered to vote this year in New York State:

1) Click here to check the online voter registration page. If your status is ‘Inactive’, or the page tells you “No Matches Found”, you are not registered to vote. In this case, CALL YOUR COUNTY BOARD OF ELECTIONS IMMEDIATELY and make sure you straighten this out (even if it means re-registering).

2) Even if your status is ‘Active’ on the online page, you need to call your county Board of Elections and confirm that your record is not flagged as unresolved. Call them today and ask them three questions:

a) Am I registered to vote?

b) Is my name flagged for review?

c) Will my name be in the poll book on Election Day?

Insist on getting an answer, even if the folks at the County Board are very busy. And while you’re at it, confirm that your address is correct, because we’re hearing of data transfer errors that are mangling addresses.

We’ve got to let the public know about this. For starters, Click here to download a flyer you can post alerting the public to the problem and the need to confirm your voter registration.

I’ll have much more to write about in the days and weeks ahead about this vital issue, including the New York City Board of Election’s illegal decision to purge all voters from the rolls who do not respond to an ‘Intent to Cancel’ letter which states “If you do not appear or answer by mail within 14 days after the mailing of this notice, your registration will be canceled. All written responses must be in English”.

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