Huge voter registration problems are plaguing states with closed primaries, leading to allegations of election fraud around the country. People who said they were previously registered Democrat or Republican suddenly found their registrations inactive or their party affiliations dropped, and now they can’t vote in their primary. These problems were a big issue in Arizona, and now they’re being seen in New York, California, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and more.
Many people are concerned election fraud is happening, but others think it could be widespread clerical errors. Either way, the problem is affecting people’s ability to vote. Is your voter registration affected, too?
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Many Voters Are Reporting Mysterious Changes to Their Registration and Party Affiliation
Many people across the country, including New York and California, are reporting problems with their voter registrations being changed without their permission. Here are just a few of the many examples.
Shelly Berry shared on Facebook that she had proof her New York voter registration was changed. Her registration was switched from Democrat to unaffiliated and she was told the change was made in 2012. She had the agent at the board of elections office print out the 2012 form and compare it to another form on file that she knew she had filled out. The handwriting was distinctly different, as you can see in the photo above.
Meanwhile, Anthony DeVincenzo shared that he changed his party affiliation for New York on the DMV website before the deadline. But it took the DMV five days to complete the transfer, and now he’s ineligible to vote. In fact, Gothamist reported that just before the late deadline to register for the April 19 primary in New York, Board of Elections spokesman Tom Connolly said they were getting hundreds of calls a day from angry voters.
Many voters from other states are also reporting problems.
A long list of stories about people who couldn’t vote in Arizona can be found on this thread on Reddit. Stories include one commenter whose brother registered Democrat two days before the deadline and received an email verification that he was registered as Democrat. But when he got to the poll, he was told he had no registered affiliation and had to vote provisional. Another Arizona story came from a Redditor whose fiancee couldn’t vote. (You can read the story here.) They both registered Democrat on the same day and got their voter identification cards on the same day. They showed up to vote in Maricopa County and he was able to vote, but his fiancee was told she was Independent. As she dropped in her provisional ballot, one person working at the polling station said, “We’ll see if this is even counted.” They finally got hold of the Secretary of State and were told that she was, indeed, registered as a Democrat the whole time.
Meanwhile, in California, voters are reporting problems too. Kelly Tolman Curtis shared this post about how her voter registration status changed three times online in the span of just a couple days:
In Connecticut, a Redditor shared that he changed his party registration to Democrat last fall, but now he’s listed as unaffiliated. These baffling voter registration problems seem to be widespread, occurring in states across the nation.
2. Election Justice USA Has Filed a Lawsuit on Behalf of New York Voters
The problems are adding up as closed primaries conclude and disenfranchised voters want their voices heard. Now voters in several states are pursuing legal recourse. In Arizona, the legal pursuit began with a hearing on March 28 (which you can read about here.) Now the Department of Justice is investigating the registration and polling problems that left many voters without their voices heard.
In addition, John Brakey, co-founder of AUDIT-AZ, has filed a lawsuit in Maricopa County that accuses election officials of misconduct. The lawsuit also demands a partial recounting of ballots, the Phoenix New Times reported. Brakey said the voter suppression problems could have cost as many as 150,000 people in Maricopa County that right to vote, both in the Democratic and Republican primaries. Brakey told the Phoenix New Times:
…A consistent theme is that people are complaining that their voter-registration record was either obliterated or changed from ‘Democrat’ to something else… We have strong reason to suspect something went wrong with the voter-registration data.”
A lawsuit is also brewing in New York. There, voter registration problems are so numerous that representatives with Election Justice USA filed a lawsuit on behalf of the people whose registrations were changed. Any New Yorkers who experienced switched voter registration should send a form explaining their problems to justice@ElectionJusticeUSA.org. You can fill out a form online here. Election Justice USA has said all information shared with them will be kept confidential.
In addition to New York, Election Justice USA is now seeking voter registration stories from people whose registrations were mysteriously changed or purged in any state. The form to fill out for states beyond New York is posted here.
Because of all the problems in New York, many residents are pushing for the primary in New York to be opened, so people who were disenfranchised from voter registration issues can still vote. Assemblyman Fred Thiele introduced legislation to the New York State Legislature on March 24 requesting that the primary be opened. You can read Thiele’s submitted legislation here. The bill would open the presidential primary and, if approved, would take effect immediately upon approval. Supporters of the legislation are asking voters to vote their support for the bill online here.
3. Here’s What To Do If Your Registration Is Wrong
The video above, shared by Jonathan Carrillo, shows the Long Island resident finding out he was incorrectly registered as a Republican and, thus, unable to vote in the Democratic primary. He later found out it was due to a 2013 DMV form showing he chose to be a Republican, but he doubted that was accurate.
According to Gothamist, New Yorkers who find out they can’t vote can speak to a judge who may issue a court order to direct poll workers to let them vote. The judges will be “on hand” on primary day. A person who works with the Board of Elections in New York described the process in more detail on Reddit here. Affected voters can ask for a court order at the polls and then meet with an on-call local State Supreme Court judge. Many of the judges side with the voters, the employee explained. You can also sign an affidavit ballot, but the BOE employee suggested going with the court order route.
Voters can also file provisional ballots, but unfortunately these are often thrown out if available data shows the person is registered, but with a different party than they tried to vote with.
In the meantime, no matter what state you’re in, there are a few things you can do if your voter registration information is wrong. First, call your local Board of Elections office to double check that what you’re seeing online is correct. Sometimes your information may actually be correct in their files, even though what you’re seeing online is wrong. Other times, they can look through the files, find an error, and fix it.
If the problem persists, there are a number of people you can notify, which we’re listing below.
Election Justice USA would like to hear your story of voter registration changes. Just fill out the online form here and include what type of problem you encountered and what state you are in.
Pratt Wiley, the National Director of Voter Expansion for the DNC, told a Redditor that he wanted to hear from people who had problems voting in Arizona. If you have a personal story of encountering problems voting in Arizona or other states, you can write him at wileyp@DNC.org.
Because many of the people encountering the problems are Bernie Sanders supporters, the campaign is interested in hearing your stories. You can contact the Bernie Sanders campaign at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Facebook group “Record Instances of Voter Party Tampering” is collating stories of voter registration issues here.
You can also contact Election Protection with your story.
Your local ACLU may also be interested. In California, for example, you can contact the CA Attorney General and the California ACLU if you think you were affected by a voter registration issue. In New York, you can call the local BOE at 518-473-5086 and the local New York ACLU. A list of local ACLU chapters is here.
4. Some Worry the Issues Are Connected to a Voter Registration Leak in December
Exactly what’s causing all the voter registration problems isn’t yet known. Some say these are just clerical errors (albeit, quite a large number of clerical errors.) At The Gothamist, one reporter said his wife’s voter registration was listed as inactive because when she changed it, a clerical error caused her name to be misspelled. Connolly said that if a New Yorker has a voter registration problem, he can only trace the problem through his county office records. Unfortunately, there’s not one set standard for how voter information is retained, so the details can be stored different from district to district. He added:
“Any time [county officials] change a voter record, it’s supposed to send updates to our system. There are times where that’s not the case.”
This potentially haphazard information storage could put voter registration information at risk. In December, a database of 191 million voters’ records was mysteriously leaked, Forbes reported. No one ever figured out who was responsible for the leak. A computer researcher found multiple databases left open for perusing, including names, addresses, party affiliations, and logs of whether voters had participated in the primary or general elections. According to Forbes, “every registered U.S. voter is included in the leak.” Much of the information was already publicly available, but that didn’t cause many voters to feel less uneasy about the whole thing. Could this lead to voter registration tampering? That’s unclear and there’s no direct evidence at this point. However, Bloomberg wrote an article about how one hacker helped rig elections in Latin America for years, as an example of how it might happen.
Whether it’s voter tampering or simply technical and clerical glitches, many people are finding they can’t vote. Whatever the cause, many voters are now calling for open primaries in the future, due to the unreliability of the voter registration process.
5. Check Your Voter Registration Status If You’re in a Closed Primary State
If your state’s primary or caucus hasn’t been held yet, then you need to check your voter registration status. This is especially important if you’re in a closed primary state. You can check your status here. If your voter registration shows up correctly, take a screenshot of the correct information, just in case it changes as primary or caucus day gets closer.
Here’s a list of upcoming primaries and caucuses that are closed or semi-closed and how to check for that specific state:
- California – The primary is on June 7 and is semi-closed. You must be registered as a Democrat or unaffiliated (no party preference) in order to vote in the Democratic primary. The Republican party, however, does not allow “no-party preference” voters to vote in their California primary. People registered with the American Independent party in California won’t be able to vote in Democrat or Republican primaries. The deadline to register with your respective party is May 23. Check your status here.
- Connecticut – The primaries are on April 26 and they are closed. You must be registered with the right party to vote. The voter registration deadline for new voters is April 21 by mail and April 25 in-person at your town hall. Previously registered voters who are unaffiliated can register with their party up until April 25 at 12 p.m. at their town hall. Check your registration status here.
- Delaware – The primary is April 26 and it’s closed.
- D.C. – The primary is closed and it’s on June 14. The deadline is May 16 for previously registered voters to change their party affiliation. However, unaffiliated or unregistered voters have same-day registration on primary day at One Judiciary Square.
- Kentucky – The Democratic primary is May 17 and it’s closed. You must be a registered Democrat to vote. The voter registration deadline for new voters is April 18 and the date to change your party affiliation is April 13. Previously registered voters had a deadline of December 31. Check your registration status here.
- Maryland – The primaries are closed and are on April 26. The voter registration deadline was April 5. However, if you’re not registered, you can still do same-day registration for early voting only April 14-April 21.
- New Jersey – The primary is June 7 and it’s closed. The party affiliation change deadline is April 13 for previously registered voters. Undeclared voters can change their party at the election ballot. Check your registration status here.
- New Mexico – The primary is June 7 and it’s closed. The voter registration deadline is May 10. Check your registration status here.
- New York – New York is a closed primary on April 19. Check your registration status here.
- Oregon – Oregon has a closed primary that is on May 17. The deadline to register is April 26. Check your registration status here.
- Pennsylvania – The closed primaries are on April 26. Check your registration status here.
- Puerto Rico – This caucus is June 5 and it’s semi-closed. You must sign a party affiliation sheet when you vote, but if you didn’t vote in the Republican primary then you can vote on June 5.
- Rhode Island – The Rhode Island primary is semi-closed and it takes place on April 26. To vote Democrat, for example, you must be registered as a Democrat or be unaffiliated. You can check your registration status here.
- South Dakota is a semi-closed primary on June 7. You must be registered with your party or unaffiliated in order to vote. The deadline to register is Mary 23. Check your registration status here.
- West Virginia – The primary is May 10 and it’s semi-closed. You must be registered with the appropriate party or unaffiliated to vote. Voter registration deadline is April 19, but undeclared voters can also vote with the party of their choice on election day. Check your registration status here.