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NEED TO KNOW: HOW VOTER ROLLS ARE MAINTAINED

There has been a lot of news lately about voters being purged from Michigan’s voter rolls, both legally and, well, not. As Precinct Delegates, it is important that we understand the process that is followed in Michigan to legally remove a voter from the voter rolls. We will be hearing of large numbers of voters being removed in 2024 and 2025, and there are clear and valid reasons for this. However, it is equally important that all voters are reminded to check their voter registration regularly (once a month is recommended and even twice a month immediately prior to an election season) to catch as quickly as possible any unwarranted purge. Voters can easily check their registration at the Secretary of State’s voter site: mi.gov/vote > My Voting Information.  


The Secretary of State’s website also has detailed, comprehensive information about the process for removing a voter from the state’s voter rolls. In brief, Michigan’s list of registered voters is maintained on the Qualified Voter File, a database developed by the state of Michigan and maintained by municipal and county clerks and the Bureau of Elections. The Qualified Voter File contains the names of all individuals registered to vote in Michigan. It also contains the names of individuals with inactive registrations, those whose records have been flagged for possible cancellation. The Qualified Voter File is updated constantly.


One way a voter can be tagged as “inactive” is when election mail sent by a clerk is returned by the USPS as “undeliverable.” Another way is connected to Michigan’s participation in the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), a database through which 24 states and Washington D.C. currently share voter registration data with each other for the purpose of keeping voter rolls complete, up to date, and accurate. When Michigan receives information through ERIC that a voter has registered in another state more recently than their activity in Michigan, the Bureau of Elections flags the voter as “inactive.”


Clerks in Michigan send a “notice of cancellation” to the address on record for all voters identified as inactive. As mandated in state and federal law, if the voter does not respond and does not have any voting activity by the second even-year federal election following the notice, the voter’s registration is cancelled. If a voter is marked inactive, they can still vote with proof of address and eligibility.


Voter registrations are also cancelled if a voter notifies their clerk that they have moved, if a voter dies, if a registration is identified as a duplicate, or if a voter requests to have their registration cancelled.


State and local election officials were able to identity a significant number of registered voters who appeared to have changed address following the statewide mailing of absent voter ballot applications in 2020, the first statewide election mailing in at least a decade. State and local officials used applications that were returned by USPS as undeliverable to mark voters as inactive and send notices of cancellation in 2021. Because of this, many more voter registrations were identified and will be cancelled after 2024 than occurred after 2022. In fact, there are approximately 400,000 voter registrations currently slated for cancellation following the November 2024 election.


For more detail on this and for all the information about voter cancellations, about what to do if you receive a notice of cancellation or what to do if you are incorrectly removed, and much, much more, visit the page for Voter Registration Cancellation Procedures at https://www.michigan.gov/sos/~/link.aspx


Thanks to Lori Boyce, Farmington/Farmington Hills and Laurie Evans, Troy

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