Between 1.5 million and 2.3 million Ohioans are eligible to vote but can’t because they are not registered. Secretary of State Jon Husted is going after every one of them, hoping to sign them up in this presidential election year. An estimated 80,000 already on Ohio’s voter registration rolls are also registered in other states, while 360,000 need to update their registration because they’ve moved within Ohio. Husted is going after every one of them, too. Unless they fix their registration they will either be forced to cast a provisional ballot or be purged from the list. Fueled by a $400,000 grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts, Ohio is joining the Electronic Registration Information Center, a nonprofit group that includes 20 states. So in the end, will the effort generate more or fewer registered voters in Ohio? “That’s the $64,000 question,” said David Becker, Pew’s director of election initiatives, who attended a Statehouse news conference Tuesday with Husted. Becker said that when other states signed up with ERIC, the twin efforts to register new voters and purge those ineligible essentially wound up canceling each other out.
However, Husted said, because of work already done by his office to eliminate the names of dead and ineligible voters, Ohio’s registration rolls are likely to swell. Regardless, it will be a better list with a higher percentage of truly eligible voters, he said. “We believe it is a robust and secure system that’s going to help improve elections in Ohio,” Husted said. “When the voter records are up-to-date, opportunities for voter fraud decrease, polling place wait times are cut, fewer provisional ballots are cast and more ballots are counted.”
State Rep. Kathleen Clyde disagrees. The decision to join “yet another interstate program to find more voters to remove from the rolls is exactly the wrong direction Ohio should be moving,” said the Kent Democrat, a frequent Husted critic.