Ohio will restart its controversial voter purge process in the coming weeks, with a few changes to help prevent eligible voters from being removed from the rolls.
No voter registrations will be canceled before this November’s mid-term election because federal law bars cancellations within 90 days of an election, and a special election will be held in August for Pat Tiberi’s congressional seat.
But county boards of election can begin identifying voters who have not voted in the past two years and mailing them a “confirmation notice,” Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted advised elections officials in a new directive. Notices must be mailed by Aug. 6.
Voters then have four years to return the notice, update their registration address or vote. If they don’t, they will be assumed to have moved out of state or died and their registrations will be canceled.
New this time around: If voters renew their Ohio driver’s licenses or ID cards with the address they’ve registered to vote at, that will count as confirming the address.
No voters flagged during the 2018 “supplemental process” will be removed from the rolls until after the November 2022 election, the directive states.
The supplemental process has been used in some form for two decades to clean up Ohio’s voter rolls. It was challenged in court after several voters claimed they were improperly removed from the rolls and were wrongly denied a ballot. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the method last month, siding with state officials who said failing to respond to the mailed notice was evidence a voter had moved and was ineligible to vote.
Ohio is expanding the program to give voters more options to check, verify and update their address – and voters will also get a second notice immediately before their record is cancelled:
Husted outlined new steps that will be taken in light of the decision:
+ Voters checking their registration through MyOhioVote.com will see if they have been mailed a confirmation notice beginning July 16, an idea that came from a recent cleveland.com project.
+ If Ohioans renewing their driver’s license or state ID card at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles provide the same address as their voter registration, it will serve as address confirmation for voter roll maintenance purposes. Previously, just renewing a license or ID did not automatically update voter registration information.
+ County boards will mail a second, “last chance” notice 30 to 45 days prior to cancellation of a voter’s registration. Previously, voters were mailed just one notice. Boards can be reimbursed for costs associated with mailing the second notice.
“We continue to find innovative new ways to improve the elections process in Ohio that are consistent with our mission to make it easy to vote and hard to cheat,” Husted said in a statement. “These latest efforts ensure we continue to meet our responsibility under the law to keep the voter rolls up-to-date while also providing voters with additional opportunities to maintain their registration.”
These updates seem like a sensible way to modify the “supplemental process” to improve voters’ ability to verify their records before cancellation. I also imagine county boards are delighted to have state fiscal support for the last-minute notices, which human nature suggests are more likely to be effective in alerting voters to potential removal. Kudos to Ohio for making these changes and not merely restarting the existing program in the wake of SCOTUS’ ruling. I’ll be curious to see how many voters take advantage of the new tools in 2018 and beyond. Stay tuned …