Knox County inactive ‘voter purging’ concerns some residents

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KNOXVILLE (WATE) – A common practice in Tennessee involves removing a voter’s name off the roll if they haven’t voted in some time. It’s called voter purging, and the League of Women Voters recently sent a letter to Tennessee’s Secretary of State noting a federal court ruling finding the state of Ohio’s method of purging inactive voters was unconstitutional.

Knox County Election Administrator Cliff Rodgers says he’s personally spoken with a half dozen people who’ve been purged because they haven’t voted in a November general election in years.

There was a buzz at the Downtown West polling place on Wednesday, but each booth was quiet.

“I feel like it’s more important than ever to vote this year,” said voter Kim Bowling.

Related: East Tennessee early voting locations, hours

Time might not always be on a voter’s side and their name may be purged.

“We’re hoping that they’ll uphold the law here as well as not only that they’ll stop purging voters, but they’ll take action to reinstate those who have been purged,” said Rynn Dupes, president of the League of Women Voters Knoxville-Knox County.

If you miss two November general elections, you’ll get a letter asking if you still live at your current address. If you respond, you’re active. If not, you’re inactive but you can still vote. If you miss two more general elections, you’re taken off the voter rolls.

“Why wouldn’t you be able to have that freedom?” asked Bowling.

While there are many questions, some, like Trent Laviano of Knoxville, worry about voter fraud.

“I think it’s necessary because if you don’t, you’re going to have dead people voting,” he said.

The League of Women Voters here in Knoxville says there are so many hurdles to overcome simply to cast a ballot.

“And then they find out their name has been stripped because they haven’t voted in several elections, I don’t know what the chances are they’ll come back again,” added Dupes.

That’s why they want this practice to stop, but while it’s being looked at by leaders, many say they think this election is important.

Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett’s office says they’re reviewing the ruling and the letters from the League of Women Voters, along with a law firm involved in this effort. A spokesperson for the office points out that voters cannot be purged within 90 days of the November 8 election.

Rodgers adds more than 10,000 people each day are taking advantage of early voting. They expect that number to grow next week when hours expand.

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