According to a new national study of voter registrations, Illinois has seventeen counties with more registered voters than living people who are of voting age, including one local county.
The study by the Public Interest Research Foundation ranks Illinois third in the nation for cluttered voter rolls, behind Michigan and Kentucky. Among the municipalities from our state is Scott County.
The people behind the study say it uses information from the federal Election Assistance Commission and publicly-available census data.
Kyle Thomas, the director of voting and registration assistance for the state, says he’s run the numbers against statewide registration databases and census data, and he hasn’t come up with any voter bases over 100 percent as the Public Interest Research Foundation indicates.
“We’re not sure exactly what they’re looking at when they’re trying to interpret the information from the Federal Election Commission. The information that we have available when we’re looking at active registrations based against the 2010 census data of 18 years and older, we don’t show any jurisdictions in the State of Illinois having a registration over 100 percent. All are actually under 100 percent,” says Thomas.
“We have reached out to both of those groups to try and set up a meeting and conversation with them, and we have not gotten any response to date.”
Thomas says if the voter records were in need of housecleaning, there are processes that allows for counties to “purge” information. He acknowledges using a combination of active and inactive records could result in jurisdictions being over 100 percent, as the study claims, but he says there’s a reason for that.
“Part of that process under the federal law requires them to send out a confirmation notice to the individual at the address. If it comes back, then they’re allowed to put that record into an inactive status, and it has to remain in that inactive status for two federal elections, and that’s part of the federal law,” he explains.
“So, there are some ways the jurisdictions’ hands become tied as far as trying to get rid of those inactive records.”
Public Interest Research Foundation spokesman Joseph Vanderhulst says federal law requires county election officials to maintain accurate rolls. He says other enforcement agencies, such as the Department of Justice, could be enforcing clean voter records, but claims they haven’t done so for almost a decade.
“Not a single action has been brought across the country to enforce this part of the law, so that’s why we are left to do it,” he says.
Vanderhulst adds when counties have more voters than living people, it forms a fertile ground for election fraud.
“In the past, people have requested absentee ballots for dead relatives, so it does happen. This makes it easier for it to happen,” says Vanderhulst.
“And the other thing, the second thing that I think kind of gets lost, is having bloated rules and inaccurate rules makes the whole process inefficient. People can be correctly registered to vote, but because of inaccuracies in the rolls, they have to cast a provisional ballot. They might be registered in more than one place because the previous place didn’t purge them,” he adds.
Scott County Clerk Sandy Hankins declined a request to go on tape, but she also disputed the findings of the study.
One Illinois county tops the national list. Franklin County has nearly twice as many people listed as eligible voters as there are people living there. You can view the full list here.