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Is it constitutional to unregister voters?

Oct. 21, 2011

By John Vettese, Student Voices staff writer

Almost two decades ago, Congress passed a law known as the National Voter Registration Act of 1993. Its intent was to make it easier for citizens to have their say by participating in elections; the law required states to let individuals register to vote at the same time they registered for a driver’s license or for a renewal (hence its informal name, the Motor Voter Act).

The law also made it easier to voters to keep their registration valid by prohibiting states from removing voters from the rolls for failing to vote. But as concern over voter fraud has swelled in an era of close elections and tense recounts, some politicians are revisiting this issue.

In January, the Utah Legislature will take up a bill challenging Motor Voter’s limits on removing voters from the rolls. The proposal would allow the state to unregister voters who miss four consecutive general elections – in other words, who go more than eight years without voting – and don’t respond to a notice after the second general election.

So, if you were a registered Utah voter in 2010, but didn’t vote, and then sat out next year’s presidential election, you’d receive a warning from the state. If you ignored the notice, didn’t vote in 2014, and sat out the 2016 presidential race, you would be unregistered.

Rep. Kraig Powell of Utah endorses the bill; he told the Salt Lake Tribune that it is a good compromise between never removing any names from voter registration rolls, and more hastily unregistering voters if they miss elections. It keeps the books current, he says, and helps prevent fraud. Lawyers for the legislative committee that endorsed the bill say it is constitutional because voters would be removed for not responding to the warning, not for failing to vote.

Others disagree, saying not only does the bill violate Motor Voter, but it also violates the U.S. Constitution. A number of amendments to the Constitution protect the rights of citizens to vote, including the 15th Amendment (which states, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State” on the basis of race), the 24th Amendment (which outlawed poll taxes), and the 26th Amendment (which lowered the voting age to 18).

Rep. Brian King told the Salt Lake Tribune that Utah has the second-lowest voter turnout in the country, and this law could make it worse. “I am concerned that we are putting more and more barriers in place to voting,” he said.

What do you think?

Is it constitutional to unregister voters? Should states be able to protect from voter fraud by keeping their registration rolls up to date? Do you think Utah’s plan would give voters enough notice before removing them? What else might be a downside to unregister people who habitually don’t vote? Join the discussion!
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Montgomery Tx
Savannah E.
I think it's completely acceptable for the state of Utah to unregistere it's voters that are not exercising their right to vote. Like the article mentions it would help prevent voting fraud, and keep the books up to date. And it's not like these people would not know that they're being unregistered, they would be issued a warning. I think this is a good idea because it could possibly be a wake-up call for some of these people and could raise the voting count in the state instead of lowering it.

Aubrey McKinzie
It is not unconstitutional to unregister voters. The 15th, 24th, and 26th amendements mention nothing about people who fail to vote. States should be able to help elections by eliminating voter fraud. 8 years is plenty of time to become aware. The work created by re-registering unregistered voters would be a drag, but nothing too serious of a downside.

I think that it's fair that people can be unregistered for voting if they do not use their right to vote. The law is not hindering people unable to vote, because you can always re-register. For someone to not vote for eight years, then complain that they are now unregistered is ridiculous. This law is constitutional because it does not make you unable to vote.

Mrs.Bradley/Nimitz High School
The debate in which whether or not it is Constitutional to unregister voters for any reason is complex in almost every aspect of the entire debate. The Fifteenth Amendment protects Voting from being denied by race, but there is not a single Amendment, Law, or Act that states that Voting can't be taken away for not using their voting privilege. I believe that since it is not stated in the Constitution, that it is reserved to the States through the Tenth Amendment. States have every right to try to protect their own state as well as there Country by eliminating Voter Fraud to the best of it's abilities. Utah's plan is modest in it's way that it allows for basically four missed elections, before you are unregistered, In reality 2 or maybe even 3 would be enough, if the Voter is going to miss 2 Presidential Elections as well as 2 State Elections than they should be unregistered, the right to vote is still there. It will always be there, but to ensure that Voting Fraud is kept to a minimum, Re-Registering should be called for when several Voting opportunities have been missed. An downside to having several unregistered voters is that population count would be only accounted for by the Census, which is only once every 10 years.

Irving/ TX
Joshua P
Bradley/ Nimitz
When people register to vote I would expect them to vote and if they don't why should their name be on the registration list? It just takes up space and makes vote counting more complicated. I don't see anything unconstitutional about removing registered voters that don't vote especially since they get a warning before hand. We need people to vote and there is no point keeping someone on the registered list if they don't commit to the obligation they signed up for.

Juan M
I believe that it is constitutional to unregister voters. I think it's ok to unregister people if they don't vote in the next election. But if they were to that they should send some type of warning, just to see if there's a good reason why they did not vote. And if they did not replied or anything within a certain time, then they should unregistered them.I believe that Utah does give voters enough notice.

Springfield, PA
McRae/Springfield High School
I believe if every person applying for welfare should be drug tested. It’s the government money who is going to aid people. The government aid is generally taken from the taxes of those not on welfare. Once this government aid is in the hands of the citizen, there is no longer a way to keep track of what the money is being spent on. A drug test should be passed to be eligible for welfare because then the government can have a good idea that their own money isn’t being spent on illegal substances. It’s only fair as long as everyone applying is tested. It becomes unfair when only specific people are targeted in these drug tests. Although there is a certain right to privacy, drug testing doesn’t violate this right. If athletes in school can be randomly drug tests, citizens applying for government welfare should also be tested. Companies also have the right to drug test randomly. Overall, if a citizen is applying to using government aid, there should be little argument about a drug test. It’s simply to make sure the aid is going to the right place, rather than fuel addictions.

I believe that it is unconstitutional to unregistered voters because people should always be able to just on day go and vote. The states should be able to protect from voter fraud in other ways then taking people off the voter role, unless they are dead. I think the way Utah is doing it is reasonable, because nobody should sit out for that long. The downside of being unregistered is that you can't have a say in who is running your country.

In my opinion, I agree with having people unregistered, if they do not vote after not voting for more then one election. If people die, they no longer exist and should be taken out. If they just do not want to vote, that is their own fault and should go through the trouble of re-registering if they want to vote. It is a duty, as a citizen, to vote and to pay attention to what is going on, so you can be happy with your country. Maybe, just maybe, people will be encouraged to vote every election and pay attention to the country, if they have a consequence like being unregistered.

Jennifer Nguyen
It is constitutional to unregister voters using that set of guidelines. The person is given multiple warnings. It's pretty fair. Eight years a a pretty big notice. Utah's plan gives more than enough time. It's the voter's responsibility to keep up with voting. It's also a valid way to prevent voter fraud.

Ms. Bradley/Nimitz
It is not unconstitutional to keep up with registration rolls by removing those who are inactive voters anyway. Voting in any type of an election, whether it be as grandiose as the national presidential election or just a smaller state election, is a responsibility, not a right. Every U.S. citizen should answer that call of responsibility, which is why the initial Motor Voter law was even established. The nation has made it easier for people to vote as stated in the Constitution; however, if certain inactive people are just acting like bumps on a log when it comes to voting for four elections in a row, I agree that states should be allowed to clear them from the registration rolls and allow them to re-register once they plan on voting again. If these citizens are already inactive, then they should have no problem with getting removed and just making a simple trip to the DPS to register again when they're ready. If states like Utah are only considering this plan to end voting fraud, then by all means, I feel like they should be able to execute this law, for fraudulent voting is an abominable act that is definitely unconstitutional.

People should have the rights to vote anytime they please. This is against what many Americans do. Immigrants that come to United States to become citizens for rights to vote. Taking that away being an United States citizen is pretty much pointless. They should always let voters be registered. Because America wouldn't be itself without equal chance to vote for the candidates the public.desire.

Luz V
It is constitutional to remove inactive registered voters from the rolls. The whole point of the challenge is the enable the government to keep up-to-date records and prevent fraud. Inactive voters can not get upset when they are removed after being inactive by choice and receiving multiple warnings about what could happen if they did not become active or at least reply to the warning. Yes, voting is a citizen's right, but it is also a responsibility.

Watertown, Ma
Mr. Rimas/Watertown High School
Yes it is unconstitutional to un-register voters. Citizens have rights and one of the most important is the right to vote. Voting is something people have fought for the right for for ages and I think it would set us back if we as citizens were not allowed to vote no matter what your past record is!!!

Watertown High School
It is unconstitutional to take away votes from some one. Every U.S. citizen has the right to vote. If they so happen choose to not vote during a particular election, that is their choice as a citizen. No matter what the situation for why they chose to not vote, it is wrong to take away their rights. Where does the revoking of rights end? This would be very unconstitutional

Rosa L
It is constitutional to unregister voters especially when they have been warned that they will be removed. Keeping everything up to date is important especially this day in age where anything and everything can go wrong. The Utah plan gives the citizen more than enough time to do something about it. The only downside is that every person that does not vote could be the difference between the winners. Another thing is that by voting they can have a say. One thing the states can do to get the unregistered voters to become active is by informing them the importance of voting such as why it is necessary to vote and how they can make a difference.

Voting is our responsibility, but keeping up with the votes is the job of the government, and if voter fraud, which is obviously unconstitutional because it gives more weight to one person's opinion, is preventable by measures such as unregistering inactive voters, like the Utah bill suggests, then I believe it should be. If a person can register to vote at any time, and it's fairly simple, I do not see how unregistering inactive voters is any sort of hindrance to those few people who wish to vote, especially if the voter is given 6 to 8 YEARS, and didn't choose to vote after being given a warning explaining the details of removal from the rolls.

Marcus A.
Helen Bradley/Nimitz High School
Situations must always be viewed within their own context. In this case, it is constitutional to unregister voters if they continuously fail to take advantage of this special privilege. Much like e-mail accounts, opportunities do have their consequences for inactivity. Registration rolls must be updated on a yearly basis, for people change and so do their views on various issues. Only in this way is voter fraud finally able to dissolve. Utah’s plan to slap an expiration date on voting rights is unquestionably fair, seeing that voters have eight years – eight years – to use or abuse this constitutional freedom before ramifications occur. On the surface, unregistering people may seem unlawful and unjust. But realize that some people don’t even want to vote and you’ll understand why such an implementation must take place. Yet, that is not to say we are deprived of the right to vote, because if we really do want to have our voices heard on the polls, we’ll find a way. And America will gladly step aside to keep our freedom alive.

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