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Compromise Proposal Would Rid Voter Rolls of 'Deadwood'

February 25, 1988|ELIZABETH N. AOKI | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — Compromise bipartisan legislation designed to restore the active purging of "deadwood" from California voter registration rolls has been introduced by the chairmen of the Assembly and Senate Elections committees.

The bills, praised by Democratic Secretary of State March Fong Eu as "long overdue," would eliminate from the rolls about 1 million Californians who have died or are not eligible to vote because they have moved and not re-registered.

For years, Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature have bickered over efforts to eliminate so-called deadwood voters. Democrats have opposed an active purge system, fearing that it would cost them voters, while Republicans have pressed for such a change. Traditionally, Democrats have been more likely than Republicans to fail to re-register.

Method of Culling Rolls

Under the compromise legislation--sponsored by Sen. Milton Marks (D-San Francisco) and Assemblyman Pete Chacon (D-San Diego), and co-authored by Sen. William A. Craven (R-Oceanside)--voters who do not vote in any of four consecutive statewide elections, starting with the June primary this year, would be dropped from the registration rolls.

California currently operates a "negative purge" system. Under it, a change-of-address post card is sent to voters before the June primary, and if the voter does not vote in the November election, another post card is sent to the same address. If the second post card is returned as undeliverable, or a person at the residence returns the card with a note stating that the voter no longer lives at that address, the voter is purged from the rolls.

However, if the post card is not returned by the new resident or the post office, and the voter fails to re-register at his or her new residence, the voter remains on the registration lists but is not eligible to cast a ballot. Thus, the deadwood pile grows higher.

Number of Voters Rises

Meanwhile, the secretary of state's office reported Wednesday that there were 192,797 more registered voters in California last month than a year ago, although the percentage of California adults who were registered to vote actually dropped slightly.

Eu's office said 68.6% of the 17.95 million Californians eligible to vote were on voter rolls in January. In February, 1987, the last time Eu compiled registration totals, the figure was 68.67%.

The January, 1988, total of 12,313,848 registered voters was the fifth highest in state history.

The state's record for the number of registered voters was set in October, 1984, when 13,073,630 people were on voter rolls.

Party Numbers Up

There were 6,243,639 Democrats in the state as of last month, up from 6,174,732 in February, 1987. But the percentage of Democratic voters slipped from 50.94% to 50.7%, the lowest level in 26 years.

Republican voters totaled 4,725,629 last month, compared to 4,656,046 in February of last year. But the percentage of voters belonging to the GOP dropped from 38.41% to 38.38%.

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