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Government & Politics

League of Women Voters Opposes Looming Deadline for Removal of Inactive Ohio Voters

photo of voting booth
Thousands of inactive voters could be prevented from entering voting booths like this one if they don't get in touch with the Secretary of State's office by September 6th.

There’s a big push underway by Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose to make sure that voter rolls are accurate and inactive voters are removed. September 6th  is the deadline for some 235,000 inactive voters to get in touch with the state. Jen Miller, Executive Director of the League of Women Voters of Ohio  discussed her group’s concerns with what’s going on.

LaRose’s office has engaged community groups in its effort to actively reach out to the 235,000 voters on the list. The secretary of state’s office has set up a website to help voters make sure their registration is active and up to date. But the League of Women Voters' Jen Miller is not convinced everybody on that list should be there.

Glaring inconsistencies
Miller said she found glaring inconsistencies on the list, like the inclusion of voters who cast ballots as recently as 2018. She said only infrequent voters should be included.

Miller is concerned by how decentralized the voter removal process is. She said too many people are involved in keeping track of voter rolls. She thinks the entire process should be digital.

The secretary of state maintains that both state and federal law requires the state to maintain accurate voter lists. Miller said the League supports maintaining voter rolls, but opposes the September 6 deadline. She believes one person wrongfully removed from voter rolls is one too many.

Miller outlines the standard for staying enrolled as a voter.
photo of voting stickers

The standard for being removed
If a voter does not vote for two years, they will get a notice in the mail asking them to confirm their address. Voters have four years to return that mail or show up to vote to remain registered.

Miller said any number of circumstances could prevent people from voting for two years. 

"It might be because you're a member of the military, or because you travel a lot. Maybe you're in the Peace Corps. Maybe you are a senior citizen who's been in a treatment facility," Miller said. "So contacting these individuals by mail may not be the best way anyway." 

If you get bumped
What happens if you get bumped from the voter rolls?

Voters at risk of being removed from the rolls

The best way to avoid showing up to vote and discovering you're unregistered is to avoid getting bumped in the first place.

Miller said if somebody has questions about their registration or eligibility to vote, they should check with the secretary of state's office, their local board of elections or with the League of Women Voters to make sure they're properly registered.

Legislative attempts to improve voter participation
Ohio legislators have begun working to improve the voting process, but how much support do these efforts have? 

Miller supports automatic voter registration and same-day voter registration.

Miller is encouraged by a bipartisan automatic voter registration bill. She is also pushing for a constitutional amendment which would allow eligible voters to show proper identification, become registered and vote all in the same day. 

"Well I think it's up to the people of Ohio to raise their voices. Clearly the system is not working," Miller said. "I know it's confusing."

Miller compared the voter removal process to using a chainsaw where you need a paring knife.

photo of Frank LaRose
Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose

The Secretary of State responds
Maggie Sheehan is a spokeswoman for Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose. She released the following statement concerning the call to stop or delay the September 6th deadline: "State and federal laws have required Ohio’s 88 counties to remove inactive registrations from the voter rolls for decades. Because Secretary LaRose is providing unprecedented levels of transparency, that process is working. Now is the time for interested organizations to join together behind the Secretary’s plan for a modernized system of voter registration that, if passed, will make our voting rolls more accurate, reduce the chance of fraud, and enhance voter confidence."