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Voter roll purge dispute all about politics

I was a little girl growing up in southwestern Pennsylvania when I recall hearing some aunts and uncles in my large extended family engaging in discussion about an upcoming election at that time.

Some in my family were not regular voters, and I recall them chatting about the chance that they may have been required to re-register to vote because the possibility existed that they had been removed from the rolls for inactivity.

Later, when I asked about the overheard conversation, my mother explained to me if you don’t vote for a number of consecutive elections, your registration is voided and, if you intended to vote in the next election, you simply had to re-register.

It sure sounded like a pretty simple and straight-forward process.

Granted, I was very young, so Mom may have been oversimplifying. Or maybe I misunderstood her explanation. Or perhaps, I just don’t remember the conversation correctly.

So, in light of all the recent hoopla over Ohio’s voter rolls, I now ask: Am I missing something?

As I see it, you don’t vote regularly, you get removed from the rolls.

You want to vote in the next election? You re-register.

You’re not sure if you’re registered? You go online or call and check.

Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose has been calling for Ohio counties to purge about 235,000 people from Ohio’s voter registration rolls by Friday.

LaRose believes most of the canceled registrations involve people who have moved or died.

Unquestionably, no one wants to see any active registered voter accidentally be purged. Of course, I’m not implying the contrary.

LaRose also has been credited by voter rights advocates for taking steps to minimize mistaken removals. The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer in an Aug. 21 piece credited LaRose for making “what he rightly calls ‘an unprecedented effort’ to reach out to impacted voters on a list of 235,000 LaRose has ordered purged on Sept. 6, sharing the purge list online and with community groups. That outreach has paid off.”

The opinion piece went on to point out that at least 9,458 of the to-be-purged voters — more than 4 percent of the total — had responded to last-chance letters sent several weeks ago — or to other outreach — to restore their names to Ohio’s active voter rolls.

On Aug. 30, however, the Ohio Democratic Party sued to stop the removal, and sought to force LaRose to conduct an individual review of the voting history of each of the 235,000 voters set to be purged.

A few days later, however, a federal judge ruled that there should be no delay in the voter roll purge.

U.S. District Judge James Graham’s ruling came based on his opinion that the Ohio Democratic Party is unlikely to prevail in its lawsuit to stop LaRose from removing voters who haven’t cast ballots in six years and failed to respond to notices seeking to verify where they live.

Democrats filed suit Friday after The Dispatch reported a vendor working with county election boards had mistakenly flagged 1,600 names to be purged.

Graham’s ruling says, however, LaRose has been transparent in releasing information and is obligated to maintain accurate voting records.

State Democratic Party Executive Director Greg Beswick called the decision to proceed with the purge “disturbing.”

LaRose’s instructions issued at Friday’s deadline prohibit county election boards from canceling registrations listed as active, lacking adequate voter history or impacted by vendor errors. LaRose also required boards to check in-person, online and mailed registration updates before proceeding.

It sure sounds to me like LaRose is taking every step to be transparent and to avoid any errors in the process.

So again I ask: Am I missing something?

blinert@tribtoday.com

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