Voter Roll Updates A Constant Process
On Wednesday, Chautauqua County had 78,455 active voters, along with 6,109 inactive voters.
Those numbers may be slightly different today. That’s because they are updated on a daily basis.
County Election Commissioners Brian Abram and Luz Torres discussed with The Post-Journal/OBSERVER their process to keep voter rolls updated and accurate as possible.
Abram, who is the Republican elections commissioner, noted October tends to be higher interest for registering to vote than other months. That’s because people have to register 10 days before the November election if they want to vote. This year, that final date is Oct. 28.
There are multiple ways to register to vote: using a paper registration form, going to the state Board of Elections website, or registering through a portal with the Department of Motor Vehicles. “Normally before 4:30 (p.m.), everybody who has asked to be registered or has asked to be moved to a different location is put in the system and basically the system is updated daily,” Abram said.
Removing people generally happens when they relocate out of state or die.
Abram said every day a bipartisan team goes through the obituaries published in The Post-Journal and the OBSERVER to see who has died. The names, address and age must match, and if that is the case, that deceased individual’s name is purged.
The Board of Elections also accepts deceased names from family or friends, as long as the necessary proof is provided. “We will always do our due diligence before we purge anybody,” he said.
Getting someone who has died and doesn’t have an obituary published is a little bit trickier, Abram explained.
Once a year, the Board of Elections sends out postcards to all registered voters. If that card is returned to the Board of Elections with “deceased” written across it, then that person is purged.
If someone moves, that person becomes inactive. “Once you’re in the inactive status, if two federal elections come and go and you don’t participate, we automatically purge you at that point,” Abram said.
Federal elections take place on even years. Every four years the office for the president is up for election. The other two years are congressional elections.
Specifically with a move, that person would have to relocate out of state or have moved with no forwarding address.
If a people are classified as “inactive,” Abram said they can still vote; they would then fill out an affidavit ballot. “An inactive status doesn’t take you out of the process, but it makes you kind of earn your way back in,” he said.
If the Board of Elections learns that a person has relocated and has the new address, that person would receive a card from their office, confirming the move.
Those cards are sent for all moves, even if the person is staying in the same municipality. That’s because legislative districts don’t always follow town lines, and cities have multiple wards. “Technically, in the city of Jamestown, you could move across the street and you could get a new legislative district or new ward,” he said.
Torres, the Democratic election commissioner, said if someone moves out of the county, but stays in state, they will work with that person’s new Board of Elections to notify the relocation.
Abram said this is common across the state. “There’s a system in place to make sure that all counties are continually informing each other who is now in their county, and who needs to be removed from the previous county,” he said.
But for those who move out of the state, the county does not reach out to the new state of residence regarding voter registration.
Abram has been the Republican Elections Commissioner for 15 years. During that time period, he said twice someone broke voting laws.
One time a person tried to vote on behalf of his dead relative. Another time a college student tried to vote in her home county and in Chautauqua County. “The law clearly states that it’s a felony if you vote twice. The bottom line is you’re making an affirmation and you have to affirm this is your residence,” Abram said.
Torres noted that this year, early voting starts Oct. 28 and runs through Nov. 5. The general election is Nov. 7. Early voting hours run 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the weekends, Monday and Tuesday hours are from noon to 8 p.m., and Wednesday to Friday hours run 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Locations include the Board of Elections office in Mayville, the Chautauqua County Fairgrounds in Dunkirk, the Robert H. Jackson Center in Jamestown, and the Chautauqua Mall in Lakewood.