What are voter purges?

Voter purges are the ways that the state takes people off the polls for failing to meet certain requirements. Georgia requirements include:
-have not voted in the past seven years
-have not updated their address from which they registered to vote
-have been convicted of a felony involving moral turpitude (Georgia Law does not clearly define what constitutes ‘moral turpitude,’ adding to the confusion)
-have not been found mentally incompetent by a judge
-registrant is deceased

Voter purges must happen no later than 90 days from a primary election. It is the state board of elections’s job to give notice to eligible voters when they are at threat of being removed from the rolls. Voter purges are used to make sure that eligible voters are on the rolls and accounted for.

What does this mean for voter engagement in Georgia?

Below is a graphic that highlights the top eight counties impacted by voter purges and pinpoints smaller counties from the purging of over 300,000 voters. Naturally the largest county in the state, Fulton County, has the highest amount of purges. However some of the smaller counties in South and coastal Georgia also have high numbers of purges. Three thousand or five thousand people getting purged from the rolls may seem small, however when that number reflects the turnout or candidate loss margin for local offices in these counties, it speaks to the bigger role purging plays in Georgia.

Voting purges disproportionately affect young people, who tend to move around more often. If an eligible voter has not confirmed their voting address through voting or returning postal service mailing, they can be at risk for removal from the voting rolls. Individuals born in 1992 are among those with the highest amount of purges. Strategists consider this group of young people the Obama voters, as they helped Obama get elected and did not return to the ballot box. While it could be that this is the group of young people that have left leaning views that are not reflected in the two party system, it could also be that not having polling locations on college campuses impacted their ability to vote.

There are other barriers to voting such as the exact match law, legislation requiring that the information on your registration exactly match your Georgia’s driver’s license number, ID number, or last four digits of your social security number confirmed by your county’s board of registrars. Any problems with your registration have to be resolved through your county board of registrars. Registrants have 26 months to address issues in their registration; however if they are not receiving necessary mail, then they may get a provisional ballot or, worse, get turned away from their polling location.

There is a lot at stake for our democracy and our environment. Please register to vote or check to see if you are registered here.