April 2, 2012 - Dead voters? Placer County works to get deceased off registered voter rolls. County elections chief says California has best election laws in U.S.
Source: Auburn Journal
Title: Dead voters? Placer County works to get deceased off registered voter rolls. County elections chief says California has best election laws in U.S.
Date: April 2, 2012
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
AUBURN CA - Placer County is ramping up for two big elections this year – the June 5 primary and the Nov. 6 presidential election – with an aim of keeping the dead off voter lists and as many of the living on them.
The county’s registered-voter rolls have a current count of 193,722 – a number that promises to swell as election races locally, state and nationally heat up.
The count is down at this point from the 202,876 registered voters eligible to cast ballots in the last major election in November 2010, according to California Secretary of State figures.
The total shows 82 percent of the county’s 248,397 eligible voters registered to legally go to the polls.
County elections chief Jim McCauley said that Placer is part of a statewide election process that doesn’t have many of the flaws recently outlined in a report calling for reforms on the national level by the Pew Center on the States.
“I think California has the best election laws in the United States,” McCauley said.
McCauley, who is president this year of the County Recorders Association of California, said that flaws in other state election processes, including a finding that 1.8 million dead people are listed as active voters across the nation, don’t illustrate the diligence California elections offices, including Placer, put into ensuring the dead are not counted.
The New York Times reported last month that the Pew study found one in eight active registrations were inaccurate or invalid. It also estimated one in four eligible voters is not registered.
McCauley and deputy registrar of voters Ryan Ronco listed several checks and balances Placer County works into its regular maintenance of election rolls.
And they emphasized that the county is actively recruiting new voters – particularly at the high school level.
Recent county statistics show 394 18-year-olds registered as voters in Placer County. Over the past 15 years, the county has helped register 9,000 18-year-old voters through programs that visit high schools to encourage taking part in elections, McCauley said.
Another program ties in with McCauley’s role as county recorder, which allows him to tap into the names of new property owners when land changes hands. They’re sent a voter registration card, he said.
While catching as many voters coming into the system as possible, the county clerk is also catching them as they depart.
One of the keys for McCauley is his office’s dual role as both elections officer and recorder. He has instant access to death certificates in Placer County.
But the office’s efforts to ensure the dead are no longer registered voters goes further. McCauley said that part of the elections division’s job is to scan obituaries in local newspapers. Once a month, the state vital statistics office sends its list of new deaths. And once a year at least, the county will go over information from the state on all Californians who have died out of state. That includes military deaths, which the county may have already picked up in scanning obituaries.
“By that time, chances are we already have that,” Ronco said.
If a voter on the rolls misses four straight statewide general elections, the name is moved to an inactive list. But if the voter does show up at the polls, the county allows a vote to be made provisionally. The vote will be considered by a judge for inclusion on the final tally. The county can get between 10 and 30 of those “phantom” voters each election, McCauley said.
“In some states, those votes go uncounted because of regulations,” Ronco said. “In California, the provisional ballot is used quite a bit.”
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