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Michigan Makes Strides In Cleaning Up Voter Lists

New programs aid local election officials in cleanup efforts

On Thursday, Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land announced that state and local efforts to clean up Michigan's voter lists are succeeding and the accuracy of the state's Qualified Voter File (QVF) continues to improve.

"The more precise our registered voter lists are, the more efficiently we can administer elections in Michigan," said Land. "I applaud the local election officials committed to these efforts."

The Department of State is working with local election officials to create a more accurate list of registered voters. Through a voter identification card reimbursement program launched last July, approximately 169,000 obsolete voter records have been marked for deletion. Records are also being checked against the U.S. Social Security Administration's Death Index for removal.

"These are exciting times for election administrators in the state of Michigan," said Detroit Clerk Janice Winfrey. "The state has introduced initiatives that aid local clerks in their efforts to maintain more accurate voter registration files, and the city of Detroit is taking full advantage of them. We are working diligently to clean up our voter lists as this has a two-fold benefit for the city: eliminating the opportunity for fraud and reducing election administration costs. It's critical that we enhance the integrity of the democratic process so voters can have faith in elections. We are doing our part by consistently cleaning up our files while being cognizant of the citizens we serve."

Michigan's QVF, created in 1998, contains a number of records for which verification has been difficult. This is due to the QVF being created from the voting lists from all 1,516 cities and townships, which included the names of deceased voters, as well as many duplicate names.

Since last July, using funds from the national Help America Vote Act, the Department of State has reimbursed local clerks more than $220,000 for the costs of mailing new voter ID cards to registered voters -- the main method for verifying those records in the QVF which are up-to-date.

If a voter ID card is returned as "undeliverable," the clerk sends a confirmation notice to the voter's last address on file. The notice informs the voter that his or her registration will be canceled if he or she fails to respond to the notice or vote over the course of the next two federal election cycles.

As a result of the mailings, the Bureau of Elections, working with local officials, has tagged nearly 169,000 obsolete records for possible removal. Under federal law, two national election cycles must pass before an obsolete record may be removed from the state's database.

County clerks forward a list of deceased adults to the clerk of each city or township within the county so the voter registrations may be cancelled. Recognizing that this is a burdensome task for election officials, Land instructed the Bureau of Elections to use data from other sources, such as the Social Security Administration's Death Index, in order to identify records of deceased voters in Michigan's QVF. Approximately 50,000 obsolete records were removed based on this data. To ensure accuracy, mailings based on the information will be sent to the address listed in the file for individuals in the QVF with voting history. The mailing informs the reader that the voter registration of the named deceased individual has been canceled and provides contact information if it is inaccurate. Roughly 13,000 notifications will be sent through this process.
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