DC Dispatch: Dead Voters Off the Rolls

Return to Election Data Dispatches.

In Washington DC, over the two-year period from 2008-2010, nine of 10 voters removed from the city’s voter rolls were removed due to death.

Nationally, the removal rate due to death was just under 20 percent, according to the Election Assistance Commission report, The Impact of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 on the Administration of Elections for Federal Office 2009–2010 (NVRA). In the three previous cycles for which there are data, the EAC reported that no more than 34 percent of DC voters were removed due to death.

So, what happened?

According to Paul Stenbjorn, executive director of the DC Board of Elections and Ethics (DCBOEE), these numbers are due to a new list maintenance effort that is long overdue. At one point, the number of registered voters almost approached the number of citizens in DC, a clear warning sign that DC’s data had grown dusty over time.

In 2010, the city thoroughly cleaned its voter rolls, something they had not done since well before the DCBOEE had a leadership change in 2009. The District started with the Social Security Administration’s certificate of death records, the most reliable source of data to find voters who are deceased. They scrubbed their registration lists against the list of deceased individuals, sent notices to the voters, and removed more than 98,000 dead voters from the rolls.

As we mentioned in our Oct. 4 dispatch, states update and clean their registration lists in different ways. Since this 2010 scrubbing, Stenbjorn said they try to repeat the process quarterly. They are also turning their attention to voters who have moved out of the District and are no longer eligible, in an ongoing effort to ensure more accurate, efficient, and secure voter rolls.

Spotlight on Mental Health

Composite image of modern city network communication concept

Learn the Basics of Broadband from Our Limited Series

Sign up for our four-week email course on Broadband Basics

Quick View

How does broadband internet reach our homes, phones, and tablets? What kind of infrastructure connects us all together? What are the major barriers to broadband access for American communities?

Pills illustration
Pills illustration

What Is Antibiotic Resistance—and How Can We Fight It?

Sign up for our four-week email series The Race Against Resistance.

Quick View

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria, also known as “superbugs,” are a major threat to modern medicine. But how does resistance work, and what can we do to slow the spread? Read personal stories, expert accounts, and more for the answers to those questions in our four-week email series: Slowing Superbugs.

Explore Pew’s new and improved
Fiscal 50 interactive

Your state's stats are more accessible than ever with our new and improved Fiscal 50 interactive:

  • Maps, trends, and customizable charts
  • 50-state rankings
  • Analysis of what it all means
  • Shareable graphics and downloadable data
  • Proven fiscal policy strategies

Explore

Welcome to the new Fiscal 50

Key changes include:

  • State pages that help you keep track of trends in your home state and provide national and regional context.
  • Interactive indicator pages with highly customizable and shareable data visualizations.
  • A Budget Threads feature that offers Pew’s read on the latest state fiscal news.

Learn more about the new and improved Fiscal 50.