State looks into voters registered in other states

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HARRISBURG -- Pennsylvania is taking another step toward canceling the registrations of voters it determines have since registered in another state.

The state announced in August it would participate in the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program, which began in 2005 after four Midwestern states organized to scan their voter registration databases for duplicates. Twenty-eight states now participate.

"The reasoning is to keep our list as accurate and up-to-date as possible," said Ron Ruman, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of State. "Counties have a lot of folks on those lists who aren't around anymore, and the more they can get those cleaned up, the better it's going to be."

The Department of State, which oversees elections, has received a list of about 370,000 records flagged as potential duplicate voter registrations. About 344,000 of those records appear to belong to unique voters, said Ron Ruman, a department spokesman.

Pennsylvania had about 8.5 million registered voters at the time of the 2012 presidential election.

The department plans to analyze the records, using voter names, dates of birth and the final digits of Social Security numbers, and then inform county elections offices of voters who appear to have registered in another state after enrolling in Pennsylvania. The counties will be asked to send notices to the addresses under which those voters registered.

Last week, the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, which represented the challengers of the state's voter ID law, questioned how the agency plans to implement the program.

"In theory, this is not a problem and could be helpful in cleaning up duplicate registrations," ACLU legal director Witold Walczak wrote in a blog post. "But unless done right, it could also be a pretext for wrongly purging voters from registration rolls."

Mr. Walczak said the ACLU had inquired how the state plans to remove duplicate voters and received a response suggesting the possibility of a procedure other than that required by the National Voter Registration Act of 1993.

Mr. Ruman said Pennsylvania indeed will comply with the requirements, which hold that states cannot remove voters who have moved unless the people in question confirm they live elsewhere or fail to respond to a notice and then do not vote for two federal general elections.

Voters who do not respond or vote in Pennsylvania will remain on the rolls through the November 2016 elections, he said.

"We're absolutely going to follow the NVRA procedures," he said.

The ACLU did not object when Pennsylvania joined the program, saying it raised no "red flags" so long as removals comply with the federal law.

In Washington County, Larry Spahr, who directs the elections office, said he has heard of the program but hasn't received instructions from Harrisburg.

"We'll just wait until we receive some more definitive information from the state as to what they want the counties to do," he said.


Karen Langley: klangley@post-gazette.com or 717-787-72141 or on Twitter @karen_langley.

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