Tuesday, October 4, 2011

89% of Indianapolis Residents 18 and Over are Registered to Vote

Marion County Clerk Beth White
In the October 2008, I did a story on my blog that discussed Marion County (Indianapolis) 105% registration rate.  The news was picked up by bloggers and traditional news outlets, with people laughing at the fact that more people were registered in Indianapolis than there were people 18 and over.

The story behind that story is something I had often complained of - bloated voter registration rolls.  I guessed then that 20% of the names on the voter registration list are people who had moved or passed away.  When people move, they often end up registered more than one place.  If a person passes away, he or she is left on the voter registration rolls although the person won't be counted during the next census.

Before Congress passed the 1993 Motor Voter law, voters in Indiana were purged from the voter registration rolls if they had not voted in any election during the previous four years.  Having reviewed precinct voter registration lists, if a person doesn't vote in any of the six elections held during those four years, then that voter almost certainly had moved or died.  Rare was the case that a voter would cast a ballot after being a dormant voter for more than four years.

Former Secretary of State
Congressman Todd Rokita
The Motor Voter law eliminated purges for not voting. Now to remove a voter from the voter registration list the Clerk has to attempt to reach the voter by mail.  If the voter doesn't complain or the mail is returned as undeliverable, then the Clerk can drop the voter.  Obviously this process is much more time-consuming and expensive than previous automatic purges.

Then Secretary of State Todd Rokita complained about the bloated Marion County voter registration rolls and urged that County Clerk Beth White to take steps necessary to pare the list of moved and deceased voters, a decision which contributed to the 105% registration rate. 

I decided to review White's efforts now three years later.  The 2010 census showed that Marion County had 903,393 residents.  74.4% or 672,124 of those residents are 18 or over.  Marion County now has 598,474 registered voters, a drop of 78,927 from 2008.  That produces a registration rate for Marion County/Indianapolis of 89%.  While that is obviously higher than it is in reality, it ranks as a considerable improvement on Marion County's 105% registration rate of 2008.

Note:  By way of clarification, when I refer to "Indianapolis," I am referring to all of Marion County since all residents of Marion County can vote in Indianapolis city elections.  The census though shows "Indianapolis" as having 829,718 residents while Marion County has 903,393.  Thus the census appears to exclude the included cities/towns of Lawrence, Speedway, Southport and Beech Grove from the "Indianapolis" population.


leigh said...

While I'm sure the clerk would appreciate the compliment, the election board/clerk's office does not oversee the voter registration office. The voter registration board is a completely separate, autonomous agency with its own budget and directors/staff - one from each major political party. Any criticism or credit should be directed at the political parties that control the process.

Paul K. Ogden said...

While there is a lot of truth to that, Clerk White was the focus of criticism for not cleaning up the voter registration rolls. Unless Rokita was completely off-base she does play a role. I'm not 100% sure though where her jurisidiction ends and the voter registation people take over.

leigh said...

state law is clear that the marion county clerk does not play a role in VR. may not be true of other counties, but the duties are separated in marion county.

IC 3-7-12
Chapter 12. County Administration of Voter Registration

IC 3-7-12-1
Duties of circuit court clerk
Sec. 1. (a) This section does not apply to the following counties:
(1) A county in which a board of elections and registration is established under IC 3-6-5.2 or IC 3-6-5.4.
(2) A county containing a consolidated city.
(3) A county in which a board of registration was established by IC 3-7-12-3 (before its repeal).
(4) A county in which a board of registration exists under an order adopted by a county acting under this chapter.