Joseph Helle was expecting a different sort of reception when he returned home from Army tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and showed up to vote in his small Ohio town near Lake Erie. His name was missing from the voting rolls in 2011, even though Helle had registered to vote before leaving home at 18 and hadn’t changed his address during his military service. Helle, now the mayor of Oak Harbor, Ohio, is among thousands of state residents with tales of being removed from Ohio’s rolls because they didn’t vote in some elections. The Supreme Court will hear arguments Jan. 10 in the disputed practice, which generally pits Democrats against Republicans.
The case has taken on added importance because the parties have squared off over ballot access across the country. Democrats have accused Republicans of trying to suppress votes from minorities and poorer people who tend to vote for Democrats. Republicans have argued that they are trying to promote ballot integrity and prevent voter fraud. Only a handful of states use a process similar to Ohio’s, but others could join in if the high court sides with the state.
Adding to the mix, the Trump administration reversed the position taken by the Obama administration and is now backing Ohio’s method for purging voters.
Helle, 31, describes himself as a “red-state Democrat” and did not vote for President Donald Trump or Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.