Patricia Aylesworth, Warwick director of elections, is not alarmed by a Providence Journal report that Rhode Island voter rolls had nearly 8,000 more people registered to vote in November than U.S. citizens old enough to vote.
“It’s a moving target,” Aylesworth said of the list of registered voters.
Because people are moving in and out of the city, name changes, deaths and pre-registration of high school students, she is not surprised that the rolls would have shown a higher number than a one-time snap shot offered by the Census. More importantly, Aylesworth is confident that the system of checking voter identifications would catch anyone seeking to vote more than once or misrepresenting themselves.
“The safeguards are there,” she said.
According to the Journal report, Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea said 789,950 people were listed to vote last November while the Census Bureau had 782,000 as old enough to vote. The Journal has brought suit against Gorbea to obtain the full date of birth of each voter so as to track duplicates within the state voting list as well as with other states. Gorbea is withholding the date of birth information on the basis that it could fall into the wrong hands, resulting in identity theft.
Pre-registered students is one area where Aylesworth can imagine the numbers would differ. Pre-registered voters would show up on the state list but not on the Census because the students weren’t old enough to vote. Currently, the list shows 166 pre-registered students in Warwick.
That’s only one factor causing a variation between the numbers.
“There’s a lot of movement,” Aylesworth said Friday.
She noted that on Friday alone, the office was notified by the Department of Motor Vehicles of 46 changes of address. The board and DMV is tied into the Central Voter Registration System (CVRS) that picks up when someone of the same name is using more than one address. That can happen when the person moves and changes their address to the new location for their license or registration but fails to make the change for voter registration. The system will also pick up a change in surname in the case of a marriage as the date of birth doesn’t change. Going into the system, the registered voter can be further confirmed by comparing the signatures on scanned registration cards. The system is also comparing recorded deaths to the rolls. The date of birth is key to the screening capabilities of the CVRS.
Keeping up with the changes is a neverending job. Currently, the Warwick board has 1,776 registered voters on its “inactive file,” meaning they have not voted in the last two elections where a federal candidate was on the ballot. Those people need to be purged from the system, but that won’t be done until they are sent a letter indicating they will be removed.
As of Friday, the board had 63,292 registered voters of which 21,333 were Democrats, 8,522 Republicans and 33,421 as unaffiliated, Aylesworth said. Included in the total is a small number who are waiting out the 90 days before their change in party affiliation is effective.
Central voter registration technician Donna Collins, who has worked for the board for a decade, said, “I have never found someone who has voted twice.”