Nearly 20 percent of people registered to vote in Rhode Island, shouldn’t be.
The state’s voter rolls inaccurately contain 150,000 people that don’t belong there, according to the secretary of state.
The Providence Journalreported Wednesday that Nellie M. Gorbea, Rhode Island’s secretary of state, has found around 150,000 people who are erroneously on the rolls. “It’s not really fraud. It’s really just inaccuracies,” Gorbea said.
Gorbea has already removed 65,000 names since 2015, the Journal says. An additional 30,000 names were deemed inactive.
Dirty voter rolls alone may not be “really fraud,” but they are a surefire stepping stone to voter fraud, creating a perfect environment for cheating. Clean elections require clean voter rolls – and so does federal law.
The Providence Journal on the importance of honest elections and ballot security:
Since elections determine how the people’s power will be used, we want to have as many informed, eligible voters as possible taking part. But, in encouraging participation, we do not want to create conditions for rampant fraud… it is important to carefully scrutinize elections to make sure that opportunities for fraud are minimized. Every fraudulent ballot, after all, can have the effect of disenfranchising a legitimate voter…
House Minority Leader Brian Newberry, R-North Smithfield, has called for a closer look at the state’s lax rules for mail ballots… He believes the laws are a “major circumvention” of the voter ID law, designed to minimize fraud…
Given the importance of our elections, it seems a worthwhile task to fully explore the safety of mail ballots in Rhode Island.
Rhode Island won’t be the only state looking to extend its voter ID laws to protect mail ballots.
“The reality of it is these lists require constant vigilance and monitoring.”
The Providence Journal reports that “20 of Rhode Island’s 39 municipalities, from the largest city to the smallest town, had more registered voters than it had citizens old enough to vote.”
The problems created by inaccurate and inflated voter rolls are well known:
Voters risk being turned away from polls at their new residences if they are registered at their old addresses. The government wastes money printing ballots that aren’t needed, and government and candidates pay for mailings to voters who don’t exist. The possibility that someone could fraudulently vote in place of a voter who died or moved shakes confidence in the system… The inaccurate list also makes voter turnout percentages meaningless.
And dirty voter rolls are “a real problem in terms of the optics and how the system appears to citizens.”
Of course, clean voter rolls are more than good policy. However “laborious and expensive,” federal law obligates states to conduct reasonable list maintenance programs to remove ineligible voters from voter rolls and to ensure registration records are accurate and up-to-date.