Georgia moves to purge more voters than it's adding
Georgia is looking to take even more people off the election voter rolls in the coming months (about 330,000) than have registered to vote so far this year (310,000).
The astonishing but seemingly coincidental similarity of those big numbers helps underscore, once again, how the state has become one of the nation's prime voting rights battlegrounds just as it has also become a newly competitive battleground electorally.
After one of the closest governor's races of last year, Democrats have high hopes for toppling the GOP's 14-year hold on all statewide contests by staging strong runs for both of the state's Senate seats and Georgia's 16 electoral votes. But the party's chances rest heavily on a huge turnout, especially by African-Americans and people who only think about voting in presidential years.
That could be made more difficult after the coming purge, which will target registrants who have not cast ballots in several years. The state estimates the vast majority of those people have died or moved away, and those who are still in Georgia but have been politically inactive will get a chance to keep their registration current.
The secretary of state's office, which this week reported the surge in new registrations thanks in large part to the automatic registration of qualified people whenever they renew a driver's license, detailed its planned cleanup of the rolls just hours later.
Notices will be sent in coming days to the last known address of each inactive voter. To remain registered they must return a postage-paid form, re-register online or cast a ballot in next week's local elections. Those who don't respond in 30 days will have their names removed before year's end, well in advance of the March primary.
This is different from the last purge in Georgia, the largest single removal of voters in American history, when 534,00 registrations were canceled in 2017 without any warning. After a wave of complaints, the General Assembly passed a law requiring advance notice, but voting rights advocates say the system remains too harshly punitive for people who have decided not to vote in a while.
Still, last year the Supreme Court upheld Ohio's system for dropping voters who haven't cast ballots over a period of time. This month the state culled culled 182,000 registrations, or 2 percent of the statewide total, mostly people who had not gone to the polls in six years.
But Ohio makes public the names of potential cancellations, allowing voting rights groups to help them reregister. The Georgia secretary of state's office hasn't decided whether it it will make its roster public.
More voters see "corruption in our political system" as the country's most pressing problem than any of the other issues getting greater attention in the 2020 campaign, new polling shows.
The online survey conducted in September asked voters whether seven different issues were an "extremely serious problem" for the country, and the only one where a majority said yes was political corruption; rising health care costs came in second at 49 percent.
The poll is only the latest to declare the electorate's dire concern about the broken political system. In just the last month, two-thirds of voters told one poll they believe the country is on the "edge of a civil war" and a plurality in another poll identified the government itself as the country's biggest problem.
But the topic of democracy reform is getting hardly any mention in the presidential race. Though most of the Democratic candidates have plans for limiting money in politics, making voting easier, securing elections and restoring the balance of powers, few have emphasized these ideas on the trail. And President Trump, who four years ago ran as the candidate most interested in "draining the swamp," rarely mentions this aspiration anymore.
A Democratic advocacy group has filed a third lawsuit in less than a month challenging Michigan laws and policies it says restrict voting rights.
The focus on Michigan voting laws by the super PAC Priorities USA reflects the importance of the state's 16 electoral votes in the 2020 presidential election. President Trump won Michigan, a swing state, by less than half a percentage point in 2016.
The latest lawsuit, filed Friday in state court, challenges actions taken after a successful 2018 ballot initiative expanded voting options, such as allowing people to register to vote at any time (including on Election Day). It also automatically registered people to vote when they obtained or renewed their driver's licenses.