For the first time, the Secretary of State will send voter registration forms to hundreds of thousands of Ohioans who were removed from the voting rolls for not voting or updating their addresses with county boards of elections. And while it’s not expected many will be filled out and returned, one voting rights group says it’s a positive move. Secretary of State Frank LaRose said it’s likely the 270,000 people who are getting those registration forms are either dead or have moved. They have already gotten final notices from county boards of elections that they’re being taken off the rolls after six years of non-voting and not updating their addresses – a process that was upheld by the US Supreme Court last year, but one that LaRose wants to change.
Many voters were confused at the polls Tuesday because even though they had voted in the presidential race, they were told they were on the inactive voter list. The Alabama Secretary of State’s Office says out of the state’s 3.3 million voters, 340,162 were moved to the inactive list this year. Every four years, according to federal and state law, cards are sent to voters to verify their address. If they’re marked return to sender twice, the voter is put on the inactive list. Local 15 production assistant Caitlin Smith has lived in this same apartment for a year and voted in the presidential election.
The Justice Department has thrown its weight behind Ohio in a high-profile legal fight over the state’s purging of infrequent voters from its election rolls, reversing the federal government’s position under the Obama administration that the practice was unlawful. The move was the latest in a series of changes the department has made in how it enforces civil rights law under the Trump administration. The dispute centers on an aggressive practice used in Ohio, a crucial swing state in presidential elections, that removes voters who sit out three election cycles and fail to respond to a warning. Last year, when the state sought to delete several hundred thousand registrations of infrequent voters ahead of the presidential election, civil-liberties groups filed a lawsuit against Ohio’s secretary of state, Jon Husted. After the Obama-era Justice Department filed a friend-of-the-court brief calling the purging practices unlawful, a federal appeals court ordered Ohio to let those people vote.
The cleansing of America’s voter registration rolls occurs every two years and has become a legal battleground between politicians who say the purges are fair and necessary, and voting rights advocates who contend that they discriminate. Voting rights groups repeatedly have challenged states’ registration purges, including those in Ohio, Georgia, Kansas and Iowa, contending that black, Latino, poor, young and homeless voters have been disproportionately purged. In Florida, Kansas, Iowa and Harris County, Texas, courts have ordered elections officials to restore thousands of voters to the registration rolls or to halt purges they found discriminatory. The 1993 National Voter Registration Act mandates that state and local elections officers keep voter registration lists accurate by removing the names of people who die, move or fail in successive elections to vote. Voters who’ve been convicted of a felony, ruled mentally incompetent or found to be noncitizens also can be removed. The U.S. Election Assistance Commission reported that 15 million names were scrubbed from the lists nationally in 2014.
Voting Blogs: The Numbers Don’t Lie: Debunking Ohio’s Rationalization for Discriminating Against Voters Who Miss an Election | Project Vote
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted says he has a good reason for targeting voters for removal from the rolls if they haven’t voted in a while. The problem is, the facts don’t bear him out. Telling someone that they cannot vote now because they didn’t vote in the past is a time-tested method of voter suppression. In years past, to make it harder for people of color and people in other underrepresented groups to vote, some states required all voters to re-register to vote before every election. Congress ended this practice when it passed the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) in 1993. The NVRA ensures that registered voters do not have to re-register simply because they missed an election or two. Now, before states and counties may remove registered voters from the voter rolls, they must respect certain safeguards—such as confirming that a voter moved to a new home in a different jurisdiction—that are designed to protect eligible voters’ rights to have their say. But when one form of voter suppression is taken away, there is no shortage of creativity in finding ways around it. Now, Husted is attempting to flout the NVRA’s protections by using a person’s failure to vote as a supposed indication that the person has moved.