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Who's An 'Inactive' Voter? Checking In On Virginia's Voter Registration Rules

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Voters in Virginia have about six weeks left to update their registration if they have moved, because those who have moved and failed to update their registration risk being turned away from the polls.

It happens after every federal election: thousands of voters are purged from the rolls because they are inactive voters.

"We don't carry inactive voters indefinitely," says Tom Parkins, general registrar in Alexandria. "Once an inactive voter does not show any activity or any voting for two federal elections, then they get deleted from the list."

But being an inactive voter doesn't always have anything to do with how frequently you cast a ballot. It could also mean that elections officials have some reason to believe that a voter no longer lives at the address they have on file — because a piece of mail they sent to an address was returned, for example.

People who have moved risk not being able to vote in November.

"If I move from Alexandria to Fairfax prior to the election in 2010 and I come back to my precinct in Alexandria, I'm not going to be eligible to vote," Parkins says. "A voter is inactivated when we have some indication that that voter may have moved.

Being deemed inactive, or being deleted from the list, generally means voters are unable to cast a ballot. These voters are sometimes allowed to cast a provisional ballot, but it's unlikely that the ballot will count, Parkins says. 

That's why all voters who have moved since the 2010 election should make sure that their registration has their current address. The deadline for updating voter registration is Monday, Oct. 15.

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