1 out of 6 Voters in GOP Stronghold of Orange County Purged from the Rolls

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


A dominant theme of post-November election analysis in the state has been the decline of California’s Republican Party. Democrats have supermajorities in the Legislature, control the statehouse and hold every statewide office.

Republican voter registration has been trending down throughout the state for more than a decade. A number of states—controlled by Republicans despite challenging demographics—have attempted to strengthen their hand electorally using voter suppression techniques, under the guise of combating voter fraud.

They include introduction of mandatory voter ID, restrictions on early voting, limits on polling place hours and the purging of voter registration rolls, all of which have been proven to reduce voting by Democrats. (Actual evidence of systemic polling place fraud is virtually non-existent.)

So it was with interest that electoral watchdogs waited to see how voters registered in the Southland Republican stronghold of Orange County fared under a review there of the rolls.

The early results are in and one out of every six voters is out.

Around 300,000 voters who were listed on the rolls but hadn’t voted since 2010 were sent postcards after the election requiring them to respond or face removal. Only 20,000 returned the card, O.C. Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley told the Orange County Register. Those purged can still vote, if they re-register.

After the purge, the Republican registration lead over Democrats was 41.8% to 31.8%, according to the Orange County registrar, compared to 42.4% to 31.6% just before.

Republicans actually lost about half a point, although the numbers are expected to change as more people respond to the postcards.

A study in 2010 by researchers at Yale and Harvard suggests that a lot of those purged from the Orange County rolls are legitimate voters who aren’t participating in any electoral shenanigans. After sending mail to a sample of voters in Los Angeles County and Florida, they concluded the mails were not to be trusted.

“Undeliverable mail may be indicative of various registration problems and should not

be used to purge voters,” the report concluded. “In Los Angeles, nearly half of the voters for whom both pieces of mail were returned as undeliverable voted in the 2008 election.”

“To the extent that ghost voters are movers who return to their old precincts or are true residents with typographical inaccuracies on their registration forms, their voting habits suggest that although their records are incorrect, election offices should use caution in purging names from lists because mail is returned.”

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

County Voter Rolls Shrink by a Dramatic 17% (by Martin Wisckol, Orange County Register)

New California Registration Data (by Richard Winger, Ballot Access News)

Voter Registration Statistics (California Secretary of State’s Office)

Voter Registration List Quality Pilot Studies: Report on Methodology (by Stephen Ansolabehere and Eitan Hersh of Harvard and Alan Gerber and David Doherty of Yale University) (pdf)

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