Democrats say their bill, H.R. 1, the For the People Act, would expand voter access in federal elections. But a Facebook post falsely claims the legislation would prevent the removal of dead people from voter rolls. The bill doesn’t say that, and existing federal legislation requires states to remove names of the deceased from voting lists.
Responding to efforts by Republican-controlled legislatures around the country to tighten voting regulations in their states, Democrats in Congress are seeking to expand voter access in federal elections nationwide.
As we’ve reported, Republicans have made misleading claims or issued statements lacking context in attacking H.R. 1. Social media posts have also misrepresented the contents of the bill, as we’ve written.
A post now spreading on Facebook falsely claims that the measure would prevent states from deleting the names of dead people from voter rolls. It reads: “DEMS OPPOSE GOP MOVE TO REMOVE DEAD PEOPLE FROM VOTER ROLLS. THEY CLAIM THAT WOULD BE VOTER SUPPRESSION. ARE THESE PEOPLE PLAYING WITH A FULL DECK?”
Rep. Elise Stefanik, of New York, the chair of the House Republican Conference, made a similar claim in a March 3 tweet. Stefanik misleadingly asserted that H.R. 1 would, among other things, “Prevent removal of ineligible voters from registration rolls.”
Stefanik’s office did not respond to requests for comment.
Current legislation, the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, already requires states to try to remove the names of dead people from voter rolls. The law “requires States to conduct a general voter registration list maintenance program that makes a reasonable effort to remove ineligible persons from the voter rolls by reason of the person’s death, or a change in the residence of the registrant outside of the jurisdiction, in accordance with procedures set forth in the NVRA.”
What is new is that H.R. 1 seeks to prevent purging eligible voters from election rolls by requiring states to obtain “objective and reliable” evidence before notifying a person that they have been removed from the rolls.
The bill says three things cannot be considered as evidence: The failure of the registrant to vote in any election; the failure of a registrant to respond to any notice unless the notice has been returned as undeliverable; and the failure of a registrant to take any other action with respect to voting or their status as a registrant.
Death is an exception, and none of that needs to be considered to remove a deceased person’s name from a voting list. Aside from death, the main reason for removing a voter from the rolls is that they have moved out of the jurisdiction where they were registered.
“I’ve never seen a Democratic proposal that would restrict the ability to remove voters who have died from the rolls, and the [National Voter Registration Act] expressly authorizes and requires them to do that,” David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation & Research, told us in an email. “Election officials of both parties want to remove dead voters from the lists, but they also want to make sure they don’t accidentally remove voters who haven’t died.”
Becker said in a separate phone interview that the biggest innovation since the 1993 law was the creation of the Election Registration Information Center, or ERIC, a non-profit corporation that helps election officials in 30 states and the District of Columbia to keep their rolls up to date by identifying voters who have moved or died.
Becker said ERIC was responsible for “much more accurate voter lists in 2020 than there ever have been in American history.”
Becker, David. Executive director, Center for Election Innovation & Research. Email to FactCheck.org. 24 Jun 2021.
Department of Justice. The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA). Accessed 1 Jul 2021.
Farley, Robert. “Republican Spin on Democrats’ Voting Bill.” FactCheck.org. 23 Jun 2021.
Hale Spencer, Saranac. “Three False Claims About the Federal Voting Rights Bill.” FactCheck.org. 24 Mar 2021.
H.R. 1 For the People Act of 2021. Congress.gov. Accessed 1 Jul 2021.
Montellaro, Zach and Daniel Payne. “Republicans want to change state election laws. Here’s how they’re doing it.” Politico. 5 Jun 2021.
Pramuk, Jacob. “Senate Republicans block Democrats’ sweeping voting, ethics bill.” CNBC. 22 Jun 2021.
U.S. Senate, Roll Call Vote. 22 Jun 2021.