A Voting+Census Bureaucratic Problem: Yet Another Reason to Vote EARLY IN-PERSON

I voted early in-person for our primary, and I need to share a surprising bureaucratic problem that confirmed why voting EARLY IN-PERSON is worth the risks this year.

I have voted in every primary and general election, sometimes early, sometimes absentee when I have worked as a poll watcher. When I asked for my ballot, I discovered I was officially an “inactive voter” because I “had not completed the census.”
I defintely filed my federal census online last spring, so I was confused, but the volunteer poll worker couldn’t explain what was going on, and in Covid-19, I was not looking for a long in-person conversation. I just immediately filled out additional paperwork so I could vote.

It turns out that this “inactive” designation was not because of the federal census, but a local census for household/address confirmation, and a state rule that localities can declare you ineligible to vote until you complete it. If I had tried to vote by mail, I suspect my application or my ballot would have been rejected. I have no idea how I or anyone in my position could have fixed this in time. It turns out that many local govts have this rule, but this hasn’t been on anyone’s radar as a widespread problem for mail/absentee voting.

The notion that I was officially an ineligible “inactive voter” would be funny if it weren’t scary.
I am a hyperactive voter.
An obsessive-compulsive voter. I am certain I completed the local census, and almost certain that I put it in the mail on time. But I don’t know anyone who knew that this survey could make you ineligible to vote.

The triple-whammy of Trump sabotaging of the mail, underfunding of the state governments during an economic crisis, and this being a census year could mean disaster.
Vote EARLY IN-Person!
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Author: Jed Shugerman

Legal historian at Fordham Law School, teaching Torts, Administrative Law, and Constitutional History. JD/PhD in History, Yale. Red Sox and Celtics fan, youth soccer coach. Author of "The People's Courts: Pursuing Judicial Independence in America" (2012) on the rise of judicial elections in America. I filed an amicus brief in the Emoluments litigation against Trump along with a great team of historians. I'm working on "The Rise of the Prosecutor Politicians," a history of prosecutors and political ambition (a cause of mass incarceration), and "The Imaginary Unitary Executive," on the myths and history of presidential power in America.

4 thoughts on “A Voting+Census Bureaucratic Problem: Yet Another Reason to Vote EARLY IN-PERSON”

  1. Jed – this is nuts! Would you consider submitting an op ed to a national publication about the voter/census issue? Seems important to get word out.

    Liked by 1 person

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