As many as 308,000 Virginia voters — with 97,000 of them on active rolls — may also be registered to cast their ballot in other states, according to a survey by the State Board of Elections that shared voter registration data with 21 other states.
“That obviously raises a lot of concern for us,” said Matthew J. Davis, information services manager with the elections board, during the panel’s meeting in Richmond on Wednesday.
Davis said that the goal is to eventually remove the identified voters from the state’s voting rolls once further investigations prove the assumptions to be accurate and the procedure complies with state law and the federal National Voter Registration Act.
A new study by the Pew Charitable Trusts released in February has revealed that the flaws in the American electoral system are widespread, extending beyond isolated voting issues in a few locations.
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But election officials say instances of the same voters being registered in more than one state are not necessarily intentional and fraudulent. They say it often occurs when people move or change their names.
Virginia entered the data-sharing project — led by Kansas — in January, becoming the 22nd on the list of participating states. The initial survey that same month compared more than 84 million voter registration records based on first name, last name and date of birth.
Davis said the elections board received 308,000 duplicate registrations, “meaning that 308,000 folks who are on Virginia’s rolls are possibly on a roll in another state.”
In an effort to narrow down the result, elections board analysts looked at the states that also provided the last four digits of Social Security numbers, resulting in a figure that offered a more accurate match to a voter’s identity. “[This way] we were able to determine that there are a little over 164,000 people on Virginia’s rolls that are also on one of the other 21 states roles,” Davis said.
Out of these matches, about 97,000 are what the elections board considers active voters in the commonwealth, meaning that they would have likely received a voter card in the last couple of years. “It doesn’t mean that they have actually voted, it just means that they are on the rolls,” Davis said.
The elections board is talking to other states involved to further compare their records to Virginia’s. “We are working to make sure that our matching criteria is accurate and to analyze the state a little further to determine exactly what it is we’re looking at,” Davis said.
Davis added that the board is not making any judgments or determinations at this point. “We are just kind of combing through the data and there does appear to be a lot of information for us to work with,” he said.
Many people remember to update their driver’s license without realizing that their records are not automatically cross-referenced by a state computer. In order to cast a ballot, most states require voters to re-register separately.
Data errors or identity issues could also lead to matches for registrations in more than one state, Davis said.
Once a dual match has been confirmed as accurate, Section 8 of the National Voting Rights Act allows the removal of voters from the rolls only if they either confirm in writing that they changed their address or fail to respond to a notice and fail to vote in the next two federal general elections. “This is a lengthy and time consuming process, but we are excited that we finally have some data to work with,” Davis said. “This is really just the first start for Virginia down this path.”
Charles E. Judd, chairman of the State Board of Elections, called the effort a step in the right direction. “The whole thing is about integrity of the voter data base,” he said.