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Would purging voter rolls get attention of Compton’s elected city officials?

Paring down to only active voters would help citizens place fear in elected officials who ignore their wishes

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A poll worker looks up a voter’s registration details at a polling location in Torrance, California, U.S., on Tuesday, June 5, 2018. Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images embed

Purging voter rolls would make it easier to recall Compton’s defiant elected officials


In a controversial ruling, June 11, that speaks directly to a frequently raised issue with elections in the City of Compton, the Supreme Court ruled the State of Ohio and six others can purge voter rolls of those persons failing to vote for six years and who did not confirm their residency.

The court’s conservative majority ruled 5-4 that Ohio did not violate federal laws by purging voters. The ruling protects similar laws in six states, including several electing governors or U.S. senators this fall — Pennsylvania, Georgia, Oregon, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Montana.

The vote pitted the Democrats claiming Voter Suppression versus the Republicans claiming Voter Fraud. The ruling by the Supreme Court could have an effect nationally as up to 24 million voters, or one in eight per Justice Samuel Alito, are believed to be carried in error on the voter registrations.

The implications could be weighty for the City of Compton.

In Compton, there are some 45,000 voters on the registration rolls. With half the population of Compton being children under the age of 18 ineligible to vote, this means nearly every single adult in Compton, in theory, is registered to vote and carried on the rolls.

However, in stark contrast, the largest turnout for any recent election was approximately 15,000 for Measure P and 2008, 2012, and 2016 presidential elections, but the normal city turnout is only about 5,000-6,000 in any given election. That begs the question — why carry so many names in excess?

One answer falls to the calculation of the number of needed signatures for a recall. If 20 percent is required of the names carried on the entire roll for a citywide recall of a mayor, for instance, then the calculation would be 45,000 x 20 percent which equals 9,000 votes to mount a recall.

But if the rolls were purged to the active voting public, then the calculation could read, for instance, 15,000 x 20 percent, which would equal only 3,000 signatures — 9,000 versus 3,000 makes a big difference in the ability of citizens to place fear in elected officials who ignore their wishes.

This fact alone makes a sizeable difference in the ability of voters to recall and remove incompetent or egregious politicians. In fact, some Compton election observers complain the voter rolls are deliberately inflated and kept artificially high to insulate and make it almost impossible or difficult to recall any Compton elected official.

So think. When was the last time a successful recall even occurred in Compton? The deck is stacked in favor of the elected official to remain in office, a fact many attributes to the last two city clerks, Charles Davis and Alita Godwin, holding office collectively for the last 45 years and not making purging voter rolls a priority.

Reports of problems with the voter rolls in Compton include dead persons voting, dead persons still carried on the rolls, people who moved out of state still listed, people listed for decades who have not voted, new residents receiving multiple election materials, and even mail-in ballots in the names of those no longer living at their address, and so on.

This has led to repeated demands for Compton City Clerk Alita Godwin or the county registrar in Norwalk, Dean Logan, to purge the city voting roster. The county points to the city, the city points to the county, and thus, nothing significantly has changed to correct and address the problem.

But with Compton being only 10 square miles, others vying for the office of city clerk have indicated that more than enough time has passed for Godwin and her staff to personally visit every residence in Compton to correct the voting rolls.

So along with this cozy arrangement, there have been allegations of cheating in Compton on elections hiding behind the bloated rolls. This includes reports of persons physically walking into precincts and being paid to assume the names of persons no longer eligible but maintained on the voting rolls, of persons sending in ineligible mail-in ballots, persons voting multiple times or persons voting provisionally in the names of others.

The problem in Compton may be different from Ohio, where persons who skipped elections and failed to answer to notices will be scraped from the registration rolls. Compton maintains names on the rolls allegedly used for cheating purposes and therefore not skipped, just available. Just as a second phenomenon was permitting non-family members to turn in mail-in ballots which led to politicians going door to door to retrieve them.

The point is each city or state has its own characteristics as to what needs to be corrected and addressed to make its voter rolls fair and democratic. While there are legitimate concerns about minorities, the disabled, and veterans being systematically effected, each entity should be able to address this issue so as to not negatively impact any voting group, yet to assure they balance the need to keep voting rolls up-to-date and fair by purging according to set rules.

If a voter decides after years of apathy to vote, they would still have the right to vote. They would need only to re-register.

Cynthia Macon is a local free-lance writer who addresses political issues.

Compton Herald is a digital news publication providing clear, fair and current news, information and commentary about Compton, the Los Angeles metropolitan area, Los Angeles County, California, and the world.


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