When Registered Voters Outnumber Voting-Age Citizens

Time for a closer look at the number of registered voters in Virginia.

Time for a closer look at the number of registered voters in Virginia. Photo credit: Virginian-Pilot

Eight localities in Virginia have more registered voters than voting-age citizens, and in another 15 localities registered voters amount to 95% of the voting-age citizens. Sound funny to you?

SB 1105, authored by state Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, and approved by the Senate, would require registrars to look into the data whenever the ratio exceeds 100%.

America is a mobile country. People move between localities and states frequently. While voters typically think to register in a new locality, I doubt it occurs to them to inform registrars in their former localities that they have departed. Speaking for myself, I would expect registrars to exchange information with each other and figure this out for themselves. But it appears that the administrative systems of some registrars offices are ill equipped to keep up with the population flux. If thousands of people across Virginia are improperly registered in multiple localities, that creates the potential for abuse by unscrupulous individuals.

(Some say that fraudulent voting occurs infrequently, so what’s the point in worrying about it. I would respond this way: We don’t know that it occurs infrequently, only that registrars have no systems in place to determine whether illegal voting is occurring, and that in instances where discrepancies have been reported to local authorities, commonwealth attorneys have shown little interest in prosecuting them.)

Speaking as a citizen, I don’t think it’s too much to ask registrars, perhaps with the assistance of the state, to put processes into effect that systematically update voter rolls for deaths, address changes and improper registration by noncitizens.

By the way, another Obenshain bill would require the periodic audit of voting machines, and a third asks registrars to adopt electronic pollbooks that allow them to match voters’ photo IDs to DMV identification records.

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4 responses to “When Registered Voters Outnumber Voting-Age Citizens

  1. I’m curious what the eight counties were that had more registered voters than residents over age 18?

    The most recent age estimates available are for July 2015, when I compared those estimates with the number of registered voters in July 2015 I couldn’t find a county or city with more registered voters than residents over 18. The counties that had the highest ratio of registered voters to residents over age 18 were counties with large older populations, such as Mathews and Highland. Likely a number of their registered voters died but have not been removed from the registrar list.

  2. re: ” Speaking as a citizen, I don’t think it’s too much to ask registrars, perhaps with the assistance of the state, to put processes into effect that systematically update voter rolls for deaths, address changes and improper registration by noncitizens.”

    What you are essentially saying is that the State , as well as the Feds needs to set up a statewide or national registry database that registrars could … be required…to check.

    how could local registrars do this otherwise?

    are you willing to pay for that?

    do you want such a registry created that may end up being used for other purposes also that perhaps the NRA would be vociferously opposed to?

  3. Sounds like a State-government-administered registration system is the obvious solution to local maladministration. And since the same problem exists across State lines and also permeates the debate over immigrant and visa status, isn’t the obvious solution to go directly to a federal registration and ID card requirement? Privacy be damned — after all, a list of eligible voters NECESSARILY is an intrusion on privacy; but if we have to have such lists anyway, let’s go about administering them efficiently.

    I have to wonder, though, how big a problem this really is. So someone is registered in two locations — do many such people attempt to take advantage of that by driving to vote in both places? And are not any offenders from both ends of the political spectrum, roughly offsetting each other?

  4. It’s about confidence in the system. Voter registration should be audited just like any other government operations. Making sure that new registrations get in the system quickly and ensuring people who have moved or died are removed just as quickly serves the public interest.

    I know Fairfax County has some system of exchanging voter information, as soon after my daughter registered to vote in Wake County, N.C., Fairfax County sent a letter to our house informing my daughter that her name had been removed from the list of registered voters. That seems fair and efficient to me.

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