Tuesday, December 5, 2023

N.C. counties set to begin updating, verifying registered voters

The 2020 election brought out 178,000 votes tallied in New Hanover County. (Port City Daily/Johanna Still)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — One of the controversial election-related actions in recent years has been the purging of voter rolls — the official records of people who are registered to vote.  That status is a critical part of a person’s ability to vote in an election. 

Both state and federal laws require that states’ rolls of registered voters are “accurate and up to date,” according to a news release sent Thursday by the N.C. Board of Elections (BOE). 

Related: With polarization seemingly reaching all-time highs, New Hanover, N.C. still purple

“Accurate voter rolls are maintained by removing voters who have moved or died or are otherwise ineligible to vote in that jurisdiction,” a spokesperson for the state elections board said in the release. “Voter roll list maintenance is important because it ensures ineligible voters are not included on poll books, reduces the possibility for poll worker error and decreases opportunities for fraud.”

State BOE officials said that as a result of the updates, the number of North Carolina voter registrations will decrease in the coming months. As of Jan. 9, nearly 7.2 million voters were registered in the state.

“In compliance with all federal and state laws, the New Hanover County Board of Elections will be conducting routine list maintenance in order to ensure that the county’s voter rolls are accurate and up to date,” Rae Hunter‑Havens, director of the New Hanover County Board of Elections, said Thursday. “The two types of routine list maintenance that we are now conducting are the Biennial List Maintenance and the NCOA, or National Change of Address Mailings.”

Biennial List Maintenance is conducted in each odd-numbered year to assess the current registered voters on the county rolls, Hunter-Havens explained. For any voters on the rolls where there has been no contact through two federal election cycles, four years in total, the county will be sending that individual an address confirmation mailing that must be returned within 30 days for that voter to remain in active status. 

“If the voter does not return the mailing, or if it is returned to our office as undeliverable, the voter will be marked as inactive,” Hunter-Havens said. “This is not a removal of the voter from the rolls, it simply means that if/when the voter presents to vote in an upcoming election they will be asked to verify or update the address on their voter registration. Should there still be no contact through another federal election cycle the registrations for these ‘“inactive’” voters will be cancelled in 2023.”

Here are criteria elections officials use when updating voter rolls:

— In the early part of every odd-numbered year, if a county board of elections has had no contact with a voter for two federal election cycles – a total of four years – and the voter has not voted during that time, it will send the voter a forwardable address confirmation mailing. The voter will be required to return the confirmation mailing within 30 days.

— If the voter does not return the mailing, or the U.S. Postal Service returns it to the county board as undeliverable, then the voter’s record will be marked “inactive” in the state’s voter registration database. Inactive voters are still registered voters. If an inactive voter shows up to vote, the person will be asked to verify their address and update it, if necessary.

— County boards will send mailings this year to voters with whom there has been no contact since October 12, 2018. Counties have started printing and mailing these notices, which must go out by April 15. More than 450,000 of these mailings are expected to be sent out statewide in 2021.

 — The registrations of these voters will be canceled if they do not confirm their registration by 2023.

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