New Laws Risk Purging Eligible Voters in Advance of This Year’s Elections

by Liz Avore

April 30, 2024

In 49 of the 50 states, a person must be registered to vote in order to cast their ballot in this year’s elections. Each of these states performs regular voter list maintenance to ensure that their voter lists are up-to-date and accurate. With summer primaries fast approaching, the federal deadline for states to complete any program that systematically removes voters from the rolls is just around the corner in many states, including some critical swing states like Florida and Arizona.

There is no doubt that maintaining accurate voter lists is key to ensuring secure and smooth elections. But new legislation and litigation, often undertaken in the name of unfounded concerns about noncitizen voting, is forcing election administrations in some states to take aggressive tactics that risk purging eligible citizens from the rolls. This means that some eligible citizens who meet all necessary qualifications may find themselves unable to vote in the 2024 general election.

In this month’s Hot Policy Take, we identify some states where new rules risk purging eligible citizens from the rolls, as well as solutions that enable states to clean up the rolls without compromising the rights of qualified voters.

Existing State Law Ensures Ineligible Voters are Removed From the Rolls

Robust systems exist to ensure that people who are no longer eligible to vote are removed from voter rolls. Every state that requires voter registration has processes in place for removing dead voters from the rolls, and for removing or updating registrations for voters who change their address. States also have processes in place to remove voters who have become disqualified due to a finding of mental incapacity or a felony conviction.

In addition, about half of states participate in the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), a nonpartisan organization that shares voter registration data between states to help identify voters who have moved from one jurisdiction to another and aid in the maintenance of accurate voter rolls. Unfortunately, a wave of conspiracy theories and disinformation have led to nine states recently withdrawing from ERIC, putting their voter list accuracy at risk. That said, momentum may be swinging back in ERIC’s direction as states have had a hard time replicating the efficacy of the compact.

To Watch in 2024: New Laws Risk Purging Eligible Voters in Several States

In the last few years, several states have enacted new laws that risk removing eligible voters from the rolls. Since 2021, 32 states have introduced at least 148 bills that would have a restrictive impact on list maintenance, 11 of which have become law.

For example, just last month, Indiana passed a law that poses a serious risk of erroneously un-enrolling naturalized citizens. H.B. 1264 sets Indiana up to make the same mistake as Texas did in 2019, when tens of thousands of naturalized citizens were identified for removal from the state’s voter rolls based on outdated DMV records. Like the catastrophic Texas policy, the new Indiana law requires election officials to use DMV records to identify non-citizens – and has no safeguards to protect against removal of people who have since become naturalized citizens. Moreover, the bill’s appeals process does not give citizens a meaningful opportunity to correct errors. The progression from identification to deregistration is so quick that stopping it would require nearly-immediate attention from an affected registrant.

In North Carolina, state legislators passed S.B. 747 in 2023, another bill targeting non-citizen voting. Using lists of people excused from jury service because of self-identification as a non-citizen, the new North Carolina law triggers a removal process that lacks adequate matching criteria to ensure the correct person is being removed.

Meanwhile, a 2021 Georgia law opened the door to frivolous mass challenges to voter registrations. Unfounded challenges inundated understaffed election offices in 2022. Out of nearly 100,000 challenges, 89% were submitted by just six individuals. This November will be the first test of this new policy in a presidential election year, where the number of voters – and potential challenges – will be much greater. Given how close voting margins in Georgia tend to be, wrongful removals or inactivations of voter status could have outcome-altering effects. In the 2022 midterms, 1.4% of active voter registrations were challenged – and the last presidential election was determined by a margin of just 0.26%. As of publication, a bill clarifying the scope of this law, but doing nothing to mitigate its impact is currently sitting on the governor’s desk.

To Watch in 2024: Politically-backed Litigation to Force Voter Purges

In this new climate of the politicization of voter list maintenance, litigation has been increasingly used by some states to try to force voter purges. Activist groups and the Republican National Committee have filed lawsuits in Michigan, Nevada, and Maryland to force election officials to remove voters from the rolls. While in Georgia, True the Vote and other “election integrity” organizations have attempted to use existing laws to challenge the registrations of hundreds of thousands of voters. Activists are using similar techniques to try and initiate mass removals of voters in Michigan, Nevada, and other states.

Forging A Better Path to Accurate Voter Rolls

Accurate voter rolls do not need to come at the expense of voter access. Policy solutions exist to help election officials maintain accurate lists without removing eligible voters. And mitigation strategies can help protect those voters whose registrations are erroneously canceled.

Modernizing the voter registration process can protect voters’ registration status and help local election administrators keep accurate voter lists. Same-day registration, used in 28 states and DC, is a great counterbalance to erroneous voter removals. It allows citizens whose registrations were wrongly canceled to re-register to vote the same day they cast their ballot.

Meanwhile, automatic voter registration, in place or soon to be implemented in half of states, keeps voter lists updated with the latest information as voters interact with the DMV or other government agencies, which in return can ease the list maintenance burden for local election officials.

States can also mitigate against improper removal by notifying a voter in advance of their registration’s cancellation, providing an appeals process for voters identified for removal, or both. Improving matching criteria can protect against erroneous removal in the first place by ensuring that the person being identified for removal is the same person who’s being removed. Finally, ERIC membership provides an easy way to share registration information with other member states to identify duplicate registrations.


In a critical election year, election officials and legislators considering new laws must be mindful of the real-life impact that list maintenance practices have on American voters. Instead of pushing unnecessarily aggressive proposals that risk purging eligible citizens, states should adopt a more balanced approach that ensures voter list accuracy without compromising access to the ballot.

As always, you can track the issue of voter list maintenance and voter removals in our State Voting Rights Tracker.