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County seeks accurate voter count

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About one in every six voters in Johnson County has an inactive registration, which puts them at risk for being taken off the voter rolls.

The county won’t start canceling voter registrations until 2017, so you’ve still got plenty of time to update your information if your registration has been flagged.

About 15,500 voters out of 98,000 in the county have inactive voter registrations after a statewide voter mailing campaign. The Indiana Secretary of State’s office sent postcards in May to every registered voter in the state, but more than 750,000 postcards came back from the post office as undeliverable or couldn’t be forwarded to the right person, secretary of state spokesman Valerie Kroeger said.

The state sent a second mailing to those people in June asking them to update their registration. More than 700,000 people didn’t by the July 24 deadline.

Johnson County’s percentage of inactive voters is among the highest of central Indiana counties at nearly 16 percent.

Marion County has more than 20 percent inactive, Hamilton, Boone, Hendricks and Shelby counties had between 10 and 16 percent inactive, while Morgan and Hancock counties had less than 10 percent.

The high number of returns showed that many Hoosiers who are registered to vote had either moved from their previous addresses or died. Many counties haven’t been able to afford the mailing costs to do periodic voter registration checks, so Indiana’s voter registration records likely contain hundreds of thousands of entries that are no longer valid, Kroeger said.

If you haven’t voted in any recent elections, that doesn’t mean you’ve automatically been added to the inactive list, Kroeger said. The people who have been marked as inactive are only because of a problem with their mailing address, she said.

“That inactive number is really ones that came back to us as undeliverable or we’ve got some that aren’t returned,” Kroeger said. “If you’re on the inactive list you just didn’t get a postcard or you somehow didn’t hear of the campaign, you can still go and vote in the next five elections or you can just update your registration.”

Voting is the easiest way to confirm your registration. If you show up at the polls this fall and you’re on the inactive list, poll workers will check your ID and if the details are the same, they’ll mark your account as active. If your address has changed, they can also help update that and then take you off the inactive list, Kroeger said. Residents who are unsure about their voter registration can call the county voter registration office or check it online at indianavoters.com.

Johnson County regularly does maintenance on its voter list such as updating registrations when notices come in from the Bureau of Motor Vehicles and reading obituaries and flagging voter accounts of people who have died, county clerk Sue Anne Misiniec said. But that process doesn’t catch someone who may have moved to a new house inside the county or moved out of the county and not updated their registration yet, she said.

The county also hasn’t been able to remove registrations from people who have likely died based on their birthdate if they haven’t received any official death notice from the health department, Misiniec said. Now counties will be able to delete those kinds of

registrations in two years if no one updates them, she said.

“We’re not going to just wipe people out. A lot of people don’t vote but every four years for the presidential. That’s not unusual,” Misiniec said. “We really leave people in forever hoping they come back.”

Clearing out invalid registrations will provide a more accurate look at how many voters are in the county and also give a truer look at election turnout percentages, Misiniec said. For example, about 9,000 voters cast ballots in the primary this year, about 9 percent of the total registered voters and one of the lowest turnouts in county history. If all 15,500 inactive registrations had been removed, the turnout percentage would have been 11 percent.

Having a more accurate voter registration list could help make decisions about where to locate future vote centers, Misiniec said. For example, if the county election board finds that there were thousands of fewer voters in a particular area, they could consider deleting or moving a vote center to an area with a higher concentration of registered voters, she said.

The refresh is also helping the state identify errors in voter registrations. The secretary of state’s office has found that many people listed the addresses of mailbox stores as their voting address. That address should be for where you live, even if you don’t get mail there.

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