The election commission maintains the voter registration roles. As part of that process it maintains a history of the voter's activity - not his or her actual vote, that is secret - but a record of whether the voter votes or communicates with the election commission. Administratively, as required by law, the election commission identifies a voter record as "active," "inactive" or "archive." Biannually, the election commission is required to reveiw its data for the previous two federal election cyles. Through this process it identifies voters who have not cast a ballot or otherwise contacted the election commission in the preveious four years. Those voters are sent a letter asking them to respond verifying their address. If they do not respond, then those voters are adminstratively identified as "inactive." However, this does not affect their ability to vote. If they vote during the next two federal election cycles or if they contact the election commission, their record is returned to "active."
The issue is what happens to an "inactive" voter if he or she does not vote or contact the election commission during the next two federal election cyles . Under that circumstance, our law requires the election commisson to "purge" that voter (change his or her status to archived). Those voters are then inelligible to vote, unless they re-register.
So, looking at the 32,781 voters purged this year, they were adminstatively identified as "inactive" after they did not vote or contact the election commission in the four years preceding the November 2008 federal election (2004 to 2008). Then, since they did not vote or contact the election commission during the intervening four years (2008 to 2012), they were properly purges this year.
I hope this information adds some clarity to a confusing senario. I also want to say that I did not mean to be critical of Mr. Baker who is an exemplary reporter nor overly critical of Mr. Yacoubian, who has a good reputation as a polster.
I was startled to see that pollster Berje Yacoubian used the wrong data for June 2012 which formed the basis for the opinion he expressed in his opinion piece, "A Purge Too Far" published on June 21st. This error has been compounded because it was repeated in Jackson Baker’s commentary “Recount in Advance,” published the same day. When I saw the data error in Mr. Yacoubian's article, I immediately contacted both Mr. Yocoubian and Mr. Baker and asked that they address this error because it creates a grossly false impression of the actions of the Shelby County Election Commission and, more importantly, it misleads the voting public.
With this response, I hope to correct their error. I provided the following information to them yesterday, in an attempt to get their articles corrected. Here is what I relayed to them.
The basis for Mr. Yacoubian's opinion is his inaccurate reporting that currently there are only 431,054 registered voters in Shelby County. He then compares this number to historical voter registration numbers to reach his conclusion. Unfortunately, he is not comparing apples to apples. The historical numbers for registered voters he cites are the combination of active and inactive voters - both are eligible to vote. Mr. Yacoubian uses a base number of 602,647 registered voters as of November 2010. However, the June 2012 number of 431,054 cited by Mr. Yacoubian is only active registered voters and leaves out the inactive voters. There are an additional 151,826 inactive registered voters. Thus, the total number of registered voters in Shelby County as of June 2012 is really 582,880 voters. Accordingly, the proper comparison yields a difference of only 19,767 registered voters between 2010 and 2012 and not 171,000 claimed by Mr. Yacoubian. In fact the 19,767 difference between November 2010 and June 2012 is less than the 22,980 difference he cites as occurring between August 2008 and November 2010. Therefore, Mr. Yacoubian's analysis is wrong and his accusations unfounded.
Shelby County Election Commission
By Toby Sells
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