- The Washington Times - Friday, March 15, 2002

Sen. Conrad Burns has asked the General Accounting Office to determine how bloated state voting rolls are, with an eye to pushing legislation that would let registrars clean their lists more often.
Registrars have complained that the motor-voter law enacted almost a decade ago has left them unable to remove names from the lists, leaving situations like Alaska and Montana, Mr. Burns' home state, where the number of voters on the rolls exceeds the voting-age population.
Missoula County, Mont., home to Montana State University, lists 76,077 eligible voters but 86,266 registered voters, Mr. Burns said a registration rate of 113 percent. The entire state has 698,260 registered voters but only 668,000 of voting age.
In Alaska, there are 473,648 registered voters but only 430,000 are old enough to vote.
"While it is obvious that the particular voter has graduated or is no longer attending the university, it is time-consuming, cost-prohibitive and frustrating for local election officials to improve and maintain accurate voter rolls," Mr. Burns, a Republican, said in the letter requesting the study.
The voting rolls have swelled since the beginning of the motor-voter law, which allows drivers to register to vote at the same time they apply for a license and which makes it difficult to remove someone's name from the voting lists.
The law says a person can't be removed until he or she has failed to vote in two successive presidential elections, which could be as long as eight years.
Some Republicans have said carrying those extra names could lead to fraudulent voting, and Mr. Burns said maintaining extra names is expensive. In Missoula County, he said, it costs $28,610 to maintain extraneous names.
Mr. Burns said bloated rolls also make it tougher in some states to get referendums or candidates' names on the ballot since laws often require a certain percentage of registered voters to sign petitions. Bloated rolls raise the bar higher than it should be, he said.
He had offered an amendment to the pending election-reform bill that would have allowed the rolls to be purged after one presidential election and one off-year congressional election, or every four years. But that amendment failed, 55-40.
Mr. Burns has rewritten the amendment and is talking with Republican Senate leaders about offering it again, a spokeswoman said.
The election-reform bill also includes provisions requiring computerized statewide registration lists, which would aid registrars in spotting duplicate registrations.


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