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Voter Purges May Threaten 2018 Midterms

An new explainer details four unfair purge techniques that could contribute to problems at the polls and ultimately disenfranchise eligible voters.

February 27, 2018

Brennan Center Explainer Shows Voter Purge Practices Could Disenfranchise Eligible Voters

New York, NY – Efforts to remove voters from registration lists that are deployed without federal safeguards threaten ballot access during midterm elections this fall. A new explainer from the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law details four unfair purge techniques – purportedly methods to remove ineligible voters from registration rolls –  that could contribute to problems at the polls and could ultimately disenfranchise eligible voters.

“Purges have always posed risks for voters, but this year we’re seeing new, insidious methods of purges that all voting rights groups must watch as we near November,” said Jonathan Brater, counsel in the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program. “These questionable approaches used to kick people off the rolls risk silencing eligible voters wanting to cast a ballot. Maintaining accurate voter rolls is crucial, but sloppy and ultimately illegal attempts to do so threaten to rob citizens of their fundamental rights.”

The new Brennan Center resource, Voter Purges: The Risks in 2018, both examines prevalent methods of improper purges and discusses instances at the state and local level where these approaches have threatened voting rights.

One vulnerability to watch out for this year according to the Brennan Center team is misuse of state challenger laws. Traditionally, individuals or private parties looking to systemically purge voters from the rolls are not allowed to do so within 90 days of a federal election. But challenger laws permit questioning of an individual voters’ eligibility much closer to Election Day. Individuals in North Carolina attempted this tactic in 2016 and succeeded in deleting 6,700 voters from the rolls, before a federal court reversed the removals.

Additionally, the explainer details dangerous potential for voter purges meant to target noncitizens, especially given false claims by the president and his allies that millions voted illegally in the 2016 election. The Brennan Center analysis examines new threats from voter fraud alarmists freshly emboldened by the administration, which targeted more than 250 jurisdictions across the country for purges in 2017 alone. And the explainer outlines disenfranchisement that could arise from states’ participation in the error-prone Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck program.

Click here to read the full explainer. And for more information on the Brennan Center’s voting rights work, click here.

To learn more about voter purges and connect with a Brennan Center expert, contact Rebecca Autrey at or 646–292–8316.