Report Raises Questions On Voter-Purging

People wait in line to vote at a Hollywood, Fla., polling site as the voting begins in Florida's presidential primary Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2008.
AP Photo/J. Pat Carter

A record number of voters is expected to show up to vote in the upcoming presidential election. But now a new report, obtained exclusively by CBS News, raises serious questions about a little-known problem-ridden process that could cost you your right to vote, CBS News chief investigative correspondent Armen Keteyian reports.

A few weeks ago, Saul Mendlovitz received a letter from the state of New Jersey informing him, after 30 years, he'd suddenly vanished as a voter.

"I believe the words were: 'you are not registered to vote,'" he said. "It's egregious."

States regularly update their voter-registration rolls for accuracy - removing those who have moved, died or committed a felony. It is known as voter-purging, Keteyian reports.

But a report by the non-partisan NYU Brennan Center for Justice, obtained exclusively by CBS News offers troubling new insight into the process, calling it "chaotic," "riddled with inaccuracies" and "vulnerable to manipulation."

Michael Waldman is executive director of the center.

"Officials are making tons of errors. And, it's all happening in secret without public accountability, and that's wrong," Waldman said.

That's why, Waldman says, exact numbers are hard to uncover. But the report cites several controversial purges this year, including:

  • 700 voters in one Georgia county
  • 10,000 in Mississippi
  • 21,000 in Louisiana

    For reasons ranging from clerical errors to mistakes in matching names, addresses and criminal histories.

    "We don't know all the problems but we know that there's a huge potential for partisan mischief," Waldman said.

    To top it off, another new study discovered 19 states are ignoring a federal law banning systematic purges within 90 days of a federal election, including the battleground states of Colorado, Ohio and Nevada.

    What can a voter do to protect themselves?

    "Don't take no for an answer," Waldman advises. "Cast a provisional ballot, call a voter hotline."

    As for Saul, it's still not clear why he got the letter. But he has been told he's eligible to vote.

    Come Election Day, don't count on thousands of others being as fortunate.