US election officials have denied any wrong-doing after a newspaper article claimed tens of thousands of eligible voters have been removed from rolls or blocked from registering in at least six swing states.
The New York Times based its findings on reviews of state records and Social Security data, and said that it had identified apparent problems in Colorado, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Nevada and North Carolina.
The paper said that voters appear to have been purged by mistake and not because of any intentional violations by election officials or co-ordinated efforts by any party.
It says that some states are improperly using Social Security data to verify new voters’ registration applications, and that others might have broken rules that govern removing voters from the rolls within 90 days of a federal election.
Elections officials in several states disputed that any voters were illegally removed from rolls.
Michigan elections director Chris Thomas said, for example, that the state removed only people who have died, notified authorities of a move or who were declared unfit to vote, which is well within the parameters of the law. Mr Thomas said that only 11,000 voters were removed from Michigan rolls in August – not 33,000, the figure cited in the report.
“There is no illegal purging going on,” Mr Thomas said.
The New York Times stood by its story.
Spokeswoman Catherine Mathis said that the newspaper’s reporting was based on voter registration data provided by the states themselves and, in Michigan’s case, compared an August 5 snapshot of registered voters with a September 5 snapshot.
She said that the paper explained its methodology to Mr Thomas “and he said he could not explain the discrepancy between our figures and Michigan’s official numbers.”
Colorado said that it would review its practices of “cancelling” voters who had moved, died or were deemed otherwise ineligible.
States have been trying to follow the Help America Vote Act of 2002 by removing the names of voters who should no longer be listed.
But, for every voter added to the rolls in the past two months in some states, election officials have removed two, the Times’ review of the records found.
If voters were wrongfully removed from rolls, the concern is that, on Election Day, voters who have been removed from the rolls could show up and be challenged by political party officials or election workers.
And because Democrats have more aggressively registered voters, any discrepancy could disproportionately affect them.
North Carolina elections watchdog Bob Hall, who heads the advocacy group Democracy North Carolina, defended the state’s elections board.
And officials in Indiana and Nevada said their procedures were sound and that all eligible voters would be allowed to vote on November 4.