Ohio threatened with lawsuit over voter purge

One day after helping file a lawsuit against North Carolina for the state’s shoddy compliance with the National Voter Registration Act, Demos, along with the ACLU of Ohio, filed a pre-litigation notice against Ohio Secretary of State John Husted over Ohio’s ongoing purge of the state’s voter rolls.

As the Columbus Dispatch reported earlier this month, Ohio is basing their voter purge not on actual ineligibility, but rather on the assumption that inactive voters who don’t respond to snail mail have moved: “Under the current process, if a person did not vote in 2009 and 2010, the county board of elections sent the person a notice in 2011. If the person took no action to verify his or her status and did not vote in any election through 2014, the county board was told to remove the person from the voting rolls in 2015.”

As Demos wrote when announcing their pre-litigation notice, this is illegal:

Ohio via Shutterstock.

Ohio, via Shutterstock

The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA), commonly known as “Motor Voter,” includes requirements that voters, once registered, must remain registered as long as they are eligible. The NVRA specifically prohibits states from removing voters for failing to vote. Under the state’s “Supplemental Process,” however, Ohio assumes that voters who have not voted in a two-year period have moved and essentially requires them to re-register to vote. This practice violates federal law.

If Ohio doesn’t amend the process by which it purges inactive voters, they can expect to be taken to court by any of the hundreds of eligible voters who showed up to vote this past November only to find that they were removed from the rolls. A bill is currently pending in Ohio’s legislature that would limit removals to people the state can confirm (rather than assume) have either moved or died.

According to Demos, this year’s purge of Ohio’s voter rolls affected voters who last cast ballots in 2008 — a year that saw record turnout. In Cuyahoga county, which includes Cleveland, over 80 percent of the 51,000 people removed from voting lists were removed based on inactivity, not ineligibility.

You don’t have your voting rights on a “use them or lose them” basis. There are better, legal ways to clean up voting lists, removing ineligible voters from the rolls without affecting people who have simply sat out a few cycles. It shouldn’t take a lawsuit to push states toward such practices, but if that’s what it takes, then so be it.

Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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5 Responses to “Ohio threatened with lawsuit over voter purge”

  1. LanceThruster says:

    Undemocratic swine.

  2. Buford2k11 says:

    This is “phase two” of the gop’s election corruption…first was the easy to do Voter ID type suppression…the next phase, which we are starting to see ramp up is this Purging…..it has been done before quite successfully in other states…Phase two still is being played out…watch for more states to Purge…and finally watch for “phase three”….it will be “We need new voting machines”….and they will be purchased from and maintained by “a corporation”….we have lost our way in our democracy….and now we are being shown our new masters….

  3. BeccaM says:

    The Republican party’s official position is that of voter suppression. Period. End of.

  4. John says:

    Automatic voter registration for everyone when they turn 18 should be the law of the land. Allowing partisan mandates and laws varying from state to state is ridiculous and will always lead to elections being rigged or under a cloud of suspicion which damages democrat and people’s faith in it.

  5. JaneE says:

    All you have to do is look at voter turnout numbers to realize that many, if not most people who cared enough to register don’t always care enough to actually vote. I wish that we could get everyone to register, and everyone registered to vote, but that isn’t likely. And it doesn’t justify removing someone from the voter register because they found the candidates not worth voting for.

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