Georgia voter registration cancellations conclude with 101K removed

JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM
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JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

Georgia canceled over 101,000 inactive voter registrations this summer, slightly fewer than initially planned because several hundred voters restored their registrations in time, according to state election records.

The sweeping cancellations, called voter “purges” by critics, affected registrations of voters who moved or didn’t participate in recent elections. State law requires systemic cancellations every other year to remove ineligible or infrequent voters from the state’s voter rolls.

In all, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office canceled 101,217 voter registrations late last month, down from the nearly 101,800 registrations that were initially considered for removal. None of these inactive voters cast ballots in last year’s general election or runoff.

Cancellations declined because 571 voters either responded to notifications mailed by election officials or automatically re-registered to vote at driver’s license offices in June and July, according to the secretary of state’s office. Voters had 40 days to respond before their registrations were removed.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution obtained the final cancellation list through the Georgia Open Records Act.

A higher number of registrations were canceled in prior years.

In 2017, over 534,000 were eliminated from Georgia’s voter rolls in the largest removal of registrations in U.S. history, in part because of a backlog of outdated voter records at the time. Two years ago, election officials canceled 287,000 registrations.

This year’s effort was smaller than in previous years in part because just 271 registrations were canceled under Georgia’s “use it or lose it” law, which allows election officials to remove people who didn’t participate in elections for several years or respond to mailed notification letters.

Voters are declared “inactive” after five years of failing to participate in elections, contact election officials, respond to election officials’ mail or update their registrations. Then their registrations are voided if they miss the next two general elections.

But voters weren’t changed to “inactive” status in 2017 because of a lawsuit over registration cancellations at the time, effectively giving them two more years before they can be removed.

That means the next round of mass cancellations in 2023 could be much larger than this year’s. About 233,000 voters were changed to “inactive” status in 2019 and will be eligible for cancellation if they don’t participate in elections.

A federal judge recently upheld Georgia’s “use it or lose it” law, finding that canceled voters aren’t significantly burdened because they can re-register to vote.

Most of this year’s cancellations targeted voters who filed a change-of-address form with the U.S. Postal Service or had election mail returned to sender.

There were also 1,098 voter registrations canceled for other reasons, most often because election officials received information that they recently died.

Georgia voters can verify and update their registration information online at www.mvp.sos.ga.gov.


Reasons for 2021 registration cancellations

66,323: Filed a change-of-address request with the U.S. Postal Service

33,525: Election mail was returned as undeliverable

1,098: Voters died or had a different reason for removal

271: Haven’t voted since 2012

Source: Georgia secretary of state’s office

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