Justice Department sues Missouri for voting violations

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- The U.S. Justice Department sued Missouri for alleged voting law violations Tuesday, claiming that people who have moved or died may still be eligible to vote due to inaccurate and inflated registration rolls.

The lawsuit claims the state is violating a federal law that requires it to make reasonable efforts to remove ineligible voters. The state assigns that duty to 116 local election jurisdictions, which are putting forth a shoddy and inconsistent effort, the lawsuit claims.

Some have left the names of dead people on the voter rolls, the Justice Department said. Others have failed to do meaningful reviews of voters rolls for people who have moved. And still others have taken voters off the rolls prematurely, the lawsuit says.

The Associated Press first reported in October 2004 that voter registration rolls in some Missouri counties exceeded the number of voting-age residents -- a fact cited and credited to media reports in the Justice Department lawsuit.

The suit said 29 election jurisdictions had more registered voters last November than they did voting-age residents. The high mark was in Reynolds County, where voter rolls were at 151 percent of the county's 2004 census for voting age population.

Democratic Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, who took office in January, said she inherited the problem from Republican Matt Blunt, who now is governor. But she said state law does not allow the secretary of state's office to clean up voter rolls itself.

"We have no enforcement authority, or statutory authority, to take names off the voter list -- that's something counties are responsible for doing," Carnahan said.

Carnahan said a new centralized voter registration database, expected to be running by January, should help eliminate incorrect voter registrations.

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