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Could Identity Theft Stop You From Voting?

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Things like voter fraud and voter identification laws are often at the forefront of Election Day controversies, and while those issues tend to be very partisan, there’s a less-politicized problem that may keep some Americans from voting: identity theft.

In a survey of identity theft victims conducted by the Identity Theft Resource Center, 18% of respondents said their identity was used during the commission of a crime, meaning the thief’s transgressions are associated with the victim’s name. In some states, ex-felons can permanently lose their right to vote, and if identity theft victims don’t make sure their records have been cleared of crimes committed in their names, they may have trouble registering to vote.

A couple of years ago, Alfonzo Reynolds ran into this problem. A man had stolen his identity five years prior to the 2012 election cycle and committed felony theft using his name. The thief served six months in prison under the name Alfonzo Reynolds. Reynolds thought his name had been cleared, but his voter registration was rejected, according to 2012 story in the Virginian-Pilot. Virginia is one of 11 states where felons may lose their right to vote.

In 2007, Reynolds received a bill from the Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office for jail “room and board,” the Virginian-Pilot reported, which eventually led Reynolds to find out a man had committed four misdemeanors and a felony using his name. His record was expunged, but “Alfonzo Reynolds” remains in a state criminal background check database, as an alias of the man who stole Reynolds’ identity. That’s why his voter registration was denied.

It all worked out — a judge signed an order allowing Reynolds to vote, the newspaper reported — but man, what a pain. It’s not to difficult to imagine some citizens opting to not vote, rather than deal with the process of straightening everything out.

Identity theft threatens everyone, which is why it’s so important to watch out for signs someone has stolen your identity: Check your free annual credit reports, watch your bank accounts for signs of unauthorized activity and monitor your credit scores for sudden drops, which may be a sign of fraud. You can get two of your credit scores for free every month on Credit.com.

Even if you’ve had to deal with identity theft before, that doesn’t mean you can let your guard down and assume everything was fixed. Protecting your identity should be a part of your daily routine, no matter your history with identity theft, because there’s no reason you should have to face ongoing financial trouble or be denied your rights as a citizen because of something you didn’t do.

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