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Keeping Voters off the Rolls

July 18, 2017

Liz Kennedy and Danielle Root write in their new report on the impact of documentary proof of citizenship and illegal voter purges:

“The ability to cast a ballot freely is key to having our voices heard and exercising control over our government. Without the right to vote, people do not have a say in the laws they must follow, and if the basic precept of a liberal democracy—the consent of the governed—is broken, the descent into authoritarianism begins. But to cast a ballot, every state except North Dakota requires people to register to vote.1

Many states have made great advances in lowering barriers to voter registration, providing a gateway to voter participation through tools such as automatic voter registration, same-day registration, and online voter registration.2 Unfortunately, many states are using voter registration tricks that manipulate the voter rolls and keep eligible Americans from having their voices heard. This report looks at two of the worst practices used to block eligible voters from participation: documentary proof of citizenship requirements, where people must show evidence of citizenship in order to become registered to vote, and illegal voter purges. Like other forms of voter suppression, both of these practices close off the democratic process to wide swaths of eligible Americans.”

Their extensive report from Center American Progress concludes:

“We must ensure that government leaders are protecting the right to vote, not making it harder for Americans to participate in the process of self-government. Make no mistake: Baseless claims of illegal voting—such as the lie put forward by President Trump himself that millions of people voted illegally in the 2016 election—are a precursor to further voter suppression measures.122 In claiming that documentary proof of citizenship requirements and voter purges are necessary, people such as Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach ignore mountains of data and research showing that widespread illegal voting is exceedingly rare.123

Rather than wasting time and taxpayer money on a fruitless investigation of American voters and questioning the integrity of the voter registration process, the Trump administration should focus on supporting programs aimed at increasing access, removing barriers, and ensuring that the American people can fully exercise their right to participate in our democracy. At a time when our democracy is under attack by foreign powers seeking to influence our elections and infiltrate our voter lists, we must find ways to safeguard the electoral process and the fundamental right to vote.

The NVRA plays an essential role in expanding participation and fighting against voter suppression tactics in the states. States have an important part to play in combating dangerous rhetoric and action by the federal government. Responsible leaders should refuse to cooperate with the dangerous overreach of the sham commission. Instead, states should expand access to the voting booth for Americans by ensuring that the National Voter Registration Act is fully enforced and encouraging legislatures to implement automatic voter registration and to participate in the Election Registration Information Center exchange.”

Full report at


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