Voter purges: It’s not about the dead people
Last week, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals dealt a serious blow to Ohio’s illegal and unfair practice of removing voters from the rolls simply because they have not voted for a few federal elections. The ACLU of Ohio and Demos challenged this process in court, and the Sixth Circuit Court decided that it violated federal law and must stop immediately.
In response, Secretary of State Jon Husted issued a misleading statement that expressed concern that the ruling would force his office to allow deceased individuals and voters who have moved out of state back on the voter rolls, potentially opening the door to voter fraud.
Let’s make one thing very clear: this is not and has never been about dead people.
What the Law Says, and How Ohio is Ignoring It
Removing people from voter rolls who are deceased or have moved and registered to vote in a different state is important. No one, including the ACLU and Demos, want inaccurate voter registration lists. Neither group has ever questioned Secretary Husted’s interest in removing these individuals and ensuring that the voter rolls are properly maintained. Decades ago, the federal government even provided for a process to purge ineligible voters by passing the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA). This federal law is at the heart of the ACLU’s challenge to Ohio’s illegal voter purge process.
Don’t let vague threats of voter fraud distract us from the truth: Ohio violated federal law by removing these people from the rolls, and we need to ensure they are able to cast their ballot in 2016.
The NVRA allows states to remove voters from the rolls when there is evidence that they are deceased, have moved, or a felony conviction has made them ineligible. The state must give voters notice they may be purged and provide them an opportunity to alert the state that they should not be removed from the voter rolls.
Secretary Husted’s current system ignores evidence altogether and simply says that if you don’t use your right to vote, you lose it. If a voter has not voted in a few federal elections, she risks being purged from the list and showing up on Election Day unable to cast a ballot. This is a clear violation of the law, and studies show it disproportionately impacts people of color and low-income voters.
Fixing the System for 2016
For voters who have been removed wrongfully from the rolls, the system needs to be fixed immediately. 2016 is an historic election year, and there is a high likelihood that many of these voters will show up for the first time and find themselves unable to cast a ballot.
Ensuring that eligible voters can still cast their ballot has nothing to do with allowing deceased or former Ohio residents the ability to vote. By invoking the specter of potential voter fraud, Secretary Husted is attempting to use a smokescreen to cast doubt on these voters and their right to cast a ballot. That’s unfair and just plain wrong.
Don’t let vague threats of voter fraud distract us from the truth: Ohio violated federal law by removing these people from the rolls, and we need to ensure they are able to cast their ballot in 2016. The ACLU and Demos will continue to fight for this and won’t rest until we are sure these people will have their votes counted.