Thousands of voter names could be purged after the Nov. 5 general election

The name given to the list of registered voters who did not vote in 2000, and may not have voted so far in 2002, conjures up visions of Cold-War tensions long since thawed.

There are about 6,000 Kaua’i registered voters on the county’s “fail-safe” list, meaning they are duly registered to vote but have not exercised that right since, possibly, 1998, and are in danger of being removed from the list of qualified Kaua’i voters if they don’t vote in the Tuesday, Nov. 5. general election.

The U.S. military in the era after World War II used a fail-safe system to detect possible Russian missile attacks, and to prevent counterattacks in the event of false-positive detection of a Soviet attack.

Locally, the fail-safe list of voters may be reduced drastically after the general election if those on the list who did not vote in 2000 also don’t vote in 2002, and do not respond to several postcards mailed out by the county Office of the County Clerk Elections Division, explained division officials.

They will be removed, or purged, from the list of eligible voters, and will have to re-register if they want to vote again. More names will be added to the fail-safe list after the 2002 general election if those people don’t vote in any election this year.

Several of those Kauaians on the current fail-safe list showed up and voted in last Saturday’s primary election, so were automatically moved back to the list of active voters.

The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA) mandated changes to national and state elections laws in many facets, including voter-list maintenance, said Peter Nakamura, county clerk.

As The Garden Island found out from various sources, even being dead for three years, or living in another state for six years, doesn’t in and of itself mean those voters’ names don’t appear on the list of eligible voters.

In fact, they do appear among the 36,561 names of registered voters in the county.

The NVRA placed limitations on removal of voters from registration lists, specifically prohibiting purges for not voting, and allows voters to be removed from the registration rolls only at their request, because of criminal convictions, death or mental incapacity, or due to a change of address (provided that particular safeguards are followed).

Even in the case of a Wailua woman whose husband, deceased for three years, received in the mail chummy, personal invitations to vote for certain candidates at this primary election, official documentation of the man’s death is needed by the Elections Division before his name can be removed from the list of qualified voters, Nakamura said.

For in-state deaths, the state Department of Health is charged with notifying county clerks, who then remove from the list names of deceased people.

The county clerks have no way of knowing or tracking Kaua’i people who die abroad.

For those who may have left the island, temporarily or permanently, something in writing from another jurisdiction, indicating that the former Kauaian is now registered to vote elsewhere, is needed to remove those people from the list of eligible Kaua’i voters.

A young Kaua’i woman saw her mother’s name on a voter list when the daughter voted in Kapa’a during the primary election, even though her mother has been a resident of another state for six years.

Those who wish to voluntarily be removed from the list of qualified voters need to make that request in writing, with a valid signature, Nakamura said.

Among provisions of the NVRA are those mandating local elections officials to notify via U.S. mail all qualified voters of their polling places. Voters need to notify the clerk’s office of name and address changes, especially when the move means changing from one town or precinct, or state House district, to another.

When someone makes the fail-safe list for not voting in one federal election cycle (every even-numbered year), efforts are made to contact that voter via mail, even with postcards that can be forwarded to known new addresses if the voter has moved.

That’s following the mailing of a third-class card that will be returned to the Elections Division if the name and address of the receiver don’t match, or have changed.

If that yellow, third-class card comes back, the person’s voter file is tagged, in this case for a questionable address, and the white, first-class card is sent out. If there is still no response, and the person doesn’t vote, he or she is moved from active to fail-safe voter status.

Folks who don’t vote in either of the 2002 elections will be tagged in a similar fashion, and that’s why elections officials urge people to pay attention to cards they mail out to voters.

Every election year, the division is deluged with telephone calls from voters, asking where their polling places are. Elections officials ask them if they received the yellow cards in the mail, and the response normally is “Yes, but I didn’t pay much attention to it.”

If those on the fail-safe list show up to vote, they are made to re-register to vote, by filling out registration affidavit forms.

“Everybody’s responsibility is to ensure that the election process is clean,” Nakamura said. “Our main mission is to make sure people vote, but also to make sure there’s checks and balances to make sure that everyone who tries to vote is qualified to vote,” he said.

Workers in the Elections Division are once again encouraging walk-in absentee voting for the general election, which will be conducted at the Historic County Building every day except Sunday, from Tuesday, Oct. 22 through Saturday, Nov. 2.

Voting hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and walk-in absentee voting is being encouraged to allow voters more time not only for candidate selection, but to read, understand and vote on various proposed amendments to the Kauai County Charter and state constitution. That will also reduce congestion at the community polling places on Tuesday, Nov. 5.

The NVRA also provides additional safeguards under which registered voters would be able to vote notwithstanding minor technical problems (voters who move within a district or a precinct will retain the right to vote even if they have not re-registered at their new address).

Congress enacted the NVRA to enhance voting opportunities for every American, and to remove the vestiges of discrimination which have historically resulted in lower voter registration rates of minorities and persons with disabilities.

The NVRA, supporters say, has made it easier for all Americans to exercise the fundamental right to vote.

Staff Writer Paul C. Curtis can be reached at mailto:pcurtis@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 224).

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