A breathtaking number of people are erroneously on Rhode Island’s voting lists

A breathtaking number of people are erroneously on Rhode Island’s voting lists
According to Rhode Island's secretary of state, around 150,000 voters are said to be registered to vote in the state, but don't even live there. (Getty Images)

Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea revealed last week that she has discovered 150,000 people on the state’s voter rolls who shouldn’t be there, according to the Providence Journal.

Gorbea, a Democrat, told the Providence Journal last Tuesday that since she has taken office in 2015, she has removed 65,000 names off the voter rolls and has marked an additional 30,000 as “inactive,” which is the first step to removing them from the list permanently.

Despite the large number of people illegitimately on the voter rolls, Gorbea said this is not indicative of voter fraud and that the list merely contains “inaccuracies.” Due to the lengths one must go to remove names from the voter roll list and the fact that many who move away from the state do not report it to voter registration officials, the names pile up naturally.

However, Gorbea noted that “having clean voter lists [is] critical to preserving the integrity of our elections and ensure that elections are fair, fast and accurate.”

According to the Journal, removing names from voter lists is no easy task, as there are protections against erroneously removing a voter:

State and federal law set out a cumbersome process to remove people from the voter rolls: if an official elections mailing to them is returned as undeliverable, they can be marked inactive. If they fail to vote in the next two federal elections, they can be removed. “It has a lot of very strict protections on how and when you can remove people from the voter rolls,”  Gorbea said.

“There isn’t a silver bullet against bloat on the voter rolls,” Gorbea said.

The Journal reported in November that of the 781,770 on the voter rolls, 40.6 percent were Democrats, 11.8 percent were Republicans, 0.3 percent were members of the Moderate Party, and the remaining 47.3 percent had no party affiliation.

How these numbers will change when Gorbea finishes her purge remains to be seen. However, it is likely that the state will remain largely Democratic. Only 464,144 Rhode Islanders voted in 2016, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton won the state with over 54 percent of the vote.

According to the Journal, Gorbea has spent $60,000 to clean the voter rolls, plus $38,000 to send mailings to people who may have moved out of state. Additionally, $21,000 was spent to add members to the Electronic Registration Information Center, an electronic database cooperatively shared between 20 states and the District of Columbia, that keeps track of driver’s licenses and voter registration.

ERIC has already identified 34,000 Rhode Islanders who have possibly moved, but could be falling short due to holes in coverage in Florida and Massachusetts.

In May, President Donald Trump called for a commission on “election integrity,” led by Vice President Mike Pence, that would be “reviewing laws and activities that lead to improper registrations, improper voting, fraudulent registrations, fraudulent voting, and voting suppression,” according to one official.

Since then, fraud has been discovered. In June, a 21-year-old James Madison University student in Virginia admitted to registering deceased voters for Democrats during the 2016 presidential election and was sentenced to 100 days in jail.

In Indiana, 12 employees of a Democrat-linked voter recruitment organization were found guilty of submitting voter registration forms of people who didn’t exist in order to meet a daily quota. The employees each face a maximum of 2.5 years in jail, with the organization being fined $10,000.

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