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Why American voter registrations are disappearing

And how to avoid the purge.

Across the country, states are using voter purges to kick voters off the rolls at an alarming rate. It’s a process meant to clean up the system and delete registrations from people who have died or who have duplicate registrations. But what happens when aggressive purges end up ridding the system of thousands of eligible voter registrations? In several states, inaccurate purges have done exactly that.

Critics say these purges, like other voter restrictions on the rise in the US, are disproportionately removing minority voters from the system — people who often vote Democrat.

According to the Brennan Center for Justice, 23 states have put new barriers to the voting booth in place since 2010, after Republicans gained control of several state legislatures. These include voter ID laws, cutting back on early voting hours, closing down polling places, and voter purges.

Why? Republican supporters say it’s all in the name of voter fraud. Even though, as Vox’s German Lopez has written, voter fraud is extremely rare.

Take the case of Georgia, where allegations of voter suppression around a tight gubernatorial race have made national news. Republican candidate for governor Brian Kemp is also the current secretary of state — which means he’s overseeing his own state election. Between 2012 and 2016, Kemp’s office purged roughly 1.5 million voters.

And according to an Associated Press report, 53,000 voter registrations, 70 percent of which are from black applicants, were being held by Kemp’s office for violating a controversial “exact match” process. The process purges voters from the rolls if their registration paperwork doesn’t exactly match their information on government documents, down to mistakes like missing hyphens or middle initials.

As Vox’s P.R. Lockhart has written, reports of voter suppression have swirled amid a potentially historic race. Kemp’s opponent, Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams, would be the nation’s first black woman governor. And Kemp’s comments have only provoked more controversy. In leaked audio, he says Abrams’s voter outreach effort “continues to concern us, especially if everybody uses and exercises their right to vote.”

So how can you prevent the purge from happening to you, the voter? If you show up to the polls and see that your name isn’t on the rolls, you can ask to fill out what’s called a provisional ballot, which can still be counted after local election officials confirm your registration. Then you can report your registration issue to your local board of elections and to your state’s attorney general’s office — some have hotlines for these types of Election Day issues.

To learn more about where and how purges happen, make sure to watch the video above. And for more videos, subscribe to Vox’s YouTube channel.

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