News & Politics

Appeals Court Rules Ohio Voter Roll Purge Illegal

Here’s a perfect illustration of why voter ID laws are so necessary.

An appeals court has ruled that Ohio’s effort to purge its voter rolls of ineligible voters is illegal. The state has been removing the names of residents who hadn’t voted in the last few elections, assuming that most of them were either dead or had moved out of state. More than 465,ooo deceased voters have already been removed, as well as 1.3 million duplicate registrations.

But the ACLU said that the purge is including too many voters who simply hadn’t made the effort to vote in recent elections, even though they were eligible to do so. The court agreed so now the state has to come up with a different way to fix its rolls.

The Hill:

 According to the ruling, the purge would affect thousands of Ohio voters who don’t vote regularly “even if he or she did not move and otherwise remains eligible to vote.”

The decision is a victory for the American Civil Liberties Union in Ohio that has spearheaded the campaign to defeat the practice.

“We are very happy that the court found that process of purging voters in Ohio is illegal and must stop,” said Mike Brickner, Senior Policy Director at the ACLU. “We don’t believe that any voters should be removed from the rolls simply because they haven’t voted in a few elections.”

According to Secretary of State Jon Husted, who is a strong supporter of the “Supplemental Process” method, the long-standing practice was used to suppress voter fraud.

The decision on Friday “overturns 20 years of Ohio law and practice, which has been carried out by the last four secretaries of state, both Democrat and Republican,” he said.

“It is one thing to strike down a longstanding procedure; it is another to craft a workable remedy. To that end, if the final resolution requires us to reinstate voting eligibility to individuals who have died or moved out of Ohio, we will appeal,” he added.

The court made no effort to weigh the greater good of preventing voter fraud against the inconvenience that a few thousand residents — if that — would face if they had to re-register.

The prospect of thousands of dead or absent voters being carried on the active voter rolls should be unacceptable. As we saw in Colorado, it is not beyond reason to think that at least some of those names will show up at the polls in November. The question now is what the state can do about it.
If the court rules that Ohio must reinstate those registrations, it will be a nightmare for county registrars who operate on limited budgets with small staffs.
It may be necessary to cull the list of ineligible voters using other, more time-consuming methods. If that is the case, it is likely the task will not be completed in time for the November election.