Missteps Lead to Blocked Voters in Swing States

On Monday, the Social Security Administration sent out a curious press release asking six states — four of which, Ohio, Indiana, Nevada and North Carolina, are swing states — to review their voter registration verification procedure.

When TPMmuckraker called to see what was behind the out-of-character notification, Mark Lassiter, the SSA’s press officer told us that those states had been requesting an inordinately high number of checks for voter’s registrations from the SSA. For instance, the relatively large state of California only requested 410,000 verifications of voter’s registrations based on social security numbers, while the significantly less populous Georgia requested almost 2 million.

The discrepancies seem to be a result of different states interpretation of a new federal law: the Help America Vote Act passed in 2002. HAVA says that states must exhaust checks in their own identification databases — like drivers licenses and ID cards — before turning to the often unreliable federal database with the Social Security Administration. Instead, states like those mentioned above have been improperly relying on the SSA to verify voter registrations.

The apparent violations of HAVA aren’t necessarily nefarious. Nevada’s uptick in SSA checks was apparently due to county clerks entering social security numbers and driver’s license number in the wrong fields, state officials told the New York Times , whose inquiries into federal voter registration verification numbers directly preceded the SSA’s press release.

The Times investigation also mentioned two more swing states where voters are being affected due to the bending of federal law.

In Michigan and Colorado, they have purged eligible voters from rolls within 90 days of the election — which is only allowed if voters die, move out of the state or are declared unfit to vote.

According to the voter purge estimates, 37,000 voters were removed from Colorado’s voter registration database in just three weeks this summer — a number that seems inexplicable give only 2,400 deaths and 5,100 out of state moves in that time period. Similar questions have been raised in Michigan, where 33,00 voters re removed in August, though there had only been 7,100 deaths and 4,400 out of state moves.

The misapplication of federal law could lead to massive problems on Election Day and disproportionally affect Democrats, who have been registering in higher numbers this year. The thought of widespread confusion and disenfranchisement on Nov. 4 has spurred many to action and put the spotlight on the storied battle between Democrats and the GOP over the existence of voter fraud.

In Ohio, the Secretary of State (a Democrat) and the Ohio GOP are battling in federal court over the release of a list of voter registrations verified by the SSA, according to the Times. The GOP seeks to force voters who don’t resolve discrepancies in their registration to vote via provisional ballot — which are notorious for not being counted because they need extra verification.