Ellen Goodman’s latest column describes Democratic jitters about losing again.

There are hard-core Democrats so hunkered down against hope that if you told them the only way McCain could win is by personally bringing Osama bin Laden home in chains, they’d respond: “SEEE! I told you! That’s the October Surprise!” (………)

Do you remember when the Obama rallying cry was “Yes we can”? Now we are in the scary season and here’s the new mantra: The only thing we have to fear is hope itself.

Considering Kerry’s early departure from Missouri in ’04 and how the polls here show Obama and McCain straining to run through the tape first, Missouri Democrats have a right to some heebie jeebies. One activist recently sent out an e-mail with a link to a troubling article in the  Utne Reader. Here’s the critical sentence:

States have purged some 13 million voters from the voter rolls since 2004, Joe Rothstein reports for U.S. Politics Today. According to Rothstein, 17 percent of registered voters in the vital swing state of Colorado have been dropped from the rolls, and 10 percent of voters have been dropped in Missouri.

Rothstein claims that:

At least 13 million voters have been purged from the rolls since 2004. That’s 10% of the 120 million votes cast in 2004 and twice as many voters than have just been added through massive registration drives.

(boldface mine)

I don’t know about that, but I did call the Secretary of State’s office and asked what the process is for removing voters from the registrations rolls.

The communications person I spoke with, Ryan Hobart, told me that the National Voter Registration Act that was passed in the nineties requires states to take steps to remove inactive voters, and here’s how Missouri goes about it.

Local boards of election send a postcard to every registered voter before each election. (We got ours yesterday.) If that postcard is returned as undeliverable, the voter is flagged as inactive. If he does not vote in the next two federal elections, then his name is removed from the rolls. If he does, he is reactivated.

As a further step to keep the rolls accurate, Missouri created a statewide voter data base in 2006. If a voter’s information turns up at two addresses–that is, if his name, date of birth, Social Security number and signature match–then he is removed from the voter rolls at the older address.

Not only do those steps sound reasonable, but in fact, Mr. Hobart assured me, Missouri has, because of the registration drives this year, more voters on the rolls than it did in 2004. We have a record number of registered voters. So Rothstein’s assertion that twice as many voters have been purged as added in the last four years is not for us to worry about, because it isn’t true in Missouri.

The state also takes steps to remove deceased voters from the rolls. Each month, the Department of Health and Senior Services sends a list to local election boards of voters who have died. The state also sends out a list of felons who are ineligible to vote.

So you can scratch this one off your angst list. Worry if you want to, but focus your fretting somewhere else.