NEW CASTLE —
This week 59,360 people in Lawrence County were recorded as registered to vote.
However, 10,061 people — about 17 percent — of them are in inactive status.
Voters are placed in inactive status if they haven’t voted within a prescribed period of time and have not responded to notices mailed to them by the county voter registration office.
Ed Allison, county elections director, said if any of those people show up at the polls for the May 20 primary, they will have to show proof of residence and sign an affidavit “that will confirm their current address so that we can update their record and put them on active status.”
Voter registration offices are required by state and federal law to send notices to residents if they haven’t voted over a five-year period that includes two consecutive federal elections. Also, notices are sent if they haven’t contacted the voter registration office in a five-year period.
The notices contain a form for voters to return, verifying the information on file at the voter registration office.
Allison said approximately 7,200 such notices were mailed in 2011. A smaller number of notices were also sent in 2012 and 2013.
Another 3,300 notices were mailed earlier this year to residents who hadn’t voted in five years, he said. Of those, 540 were returned as non-deliverable and another 2,100 people did not respond.
Unless those on the inactive list contact the voter registration office or vote in the meantime, they will be dropped from the rolls. The earliest that can occur is 2015, Allison said.
Allison said he finds the total number of inactives disturbing because the voter registration rolls are showing about 10,000 more people “than should be there.”
As a result, he said he may have understated voter turnout in recent elections. The turnout “may have actually been better” than what was recorded, he said.
For example, the turnout in last November’s election was 19.25 percent. If the number of people voting had been applied to 10,000 fewer registered voters, the turnout would have been 23.5 percent.
Other means of removing people from the rolls is by using the death records from newspapers and getting notification of deaths from the Pennsylvania Department of State through the Department of Health. His office also obtains names of people who no longer live in the county through the county’s jury services office.
Notices were also sent this year to voters in election districts that were realigned, informing them that there polling site may have changed. The county consolidated some districts and added others last year resulting in a net reduction of districts from 79 to 75.
The changes occurred in nine municipalities.
Allison said about 12,000 voter registration cards were mailed. The postal service returned 762 as undeliverable, meaning they may have moved, changed their name through marriage or are deceased.