- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 27, 2015

America’s voter rolls are so bloated that dozens of counties have more people registered than there are adults living there, according to two new studies released Thursday that the authors said could lead to lawsuits forcing states to clean things up.

True the Vote, a Texas group that works for clean elections, counted 136 counties with voter registration rates of more than 100 percent of their adult population. Meanwhile the Public Interest Legal Foundation, a public interest law firm based in Alexandria, used a slightly different methodology and counted 141 counties.

And an increasing number are mid- and large-sized ones — the kind that should have enough resources to police their voter rolls, but just aren’t getting to it, said Logan Churchwell, research director for True the Vote.

“At the end of the day you can point to the Justice Department for allowing this to go on,” Mr. Churchwell said, blaming the Obama administration for not pursuing easy cases that could have pressured jurisdictions to keep their voter rolls clean.

The National Voter Registration Act, better known as “Motor Voter” because it allows registering at motor vehicle bureaus, also requires states keep their voter rolls clean, in order to try to prevent fraudulent votes from being cast.

But easier registration and a more mobile public has also helped voter rolls grow, as people don’t cancel their registration in one locale, even as they do register in another. Having more registered voters than the total number of people who could possibly vote is a good indicator that something’s wrong, the studies said.

“Corrupted voter rolls provide the perfect environment for voter fraud,” said J. Christian Adams, president of the PILF. “Close elections tainted by voter fraud turned control of the United States Senate in 2009. Too much is at stake in 2016 to allow that to happen again.”

Franklin County, Illinois, tops the PILF list of offenders, with a registration rate of 190 percent. That means that for every 100 adult residents of the county, there are 190 names on the voter rolls.

Lisa Kay Muir with the county election office said they do try to keep their voting lists clean, and are actually in the middle of a new purge. In May and June, they sent out new voter registration cards to their entire list of about 29,000 voters, and she said thousands of them got returned.

“I’m still getting cards back every day,” she said.

Under federal law, after a card is returned, registrars must still wait through two more federal elections before erasing their names from the voter rolls.

Mr. Churchwell said bloated rolls are beginning to swamp some states.

His organization did similar checks after the 2010 and 2012 elections, and found that overall rates hovered in the low 70 percent range statewide, even if some counties were much higher. This time, however, several states have overall registration rates topping 90 percent, suggesting bigger problems.

Kentucky, Michigan and Indiana were all over 90 percent, his data showed.

“We’re seeing bad states, and they’re in varying sizes,” Mr. Churchwell said.

True the Vote sued both Ohio and Indiana after the last set of data, stemming from the 2012 election. Ohio entered into an agreement that has led to much cleaner rolls, with all three of the counties that were over the line then coming in below 100 percent this time. Indiana, meanwhile, passed new legislation to try to push for cleaner registration rolls.

Mr. Churchwell said the Obama administration has worked against states trying to clean up their rolls, including preventing some states from trying to match names against non-citizens in Homeland Security databases. Meanwhile, the Justice Department has ignored the explosion of names, he said.

The department didn’t return a message seeking comment.

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