Ohio Democrats are suing Secretary of State Frank LaRose for his plan to unregister voters who have not participated in voting in the last six years or at least the last 12 elections.
Ohio law sets a timeline for when inactive voters will be purged from the voter rolls. The law also requires that these voters be notified before their removal to give them the opportunity to remain registered if they choose to be. Although LaRose has sent out these notification letters and maintained the registration of the more than 11,000 Ohioans who sought to stay registered, Democrats have accused the Republican secretary of state of improperly targeting people for removal.
“What we’ve seen over the past few weeks is one revelation after another that the lists used to purge voters from Ohio’s rolls have been strewn with errors,” Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper said Friday in a news release. “Despite all of these mistakes, the secretary of state is still planning to go through with his planned voter purge on Sept. 6, less than a week before a primary election set for Sept. 10.”
In the news release, Pepper said that Democrats have asked LaRose to halt the purge so that an outside entity could conduct an audit of the removal process. He cautioned that thousands of Ohioans could be improperly removed four days before the primary elections and be unable to cast their votes.
Concerns about people being improperly purged from the voter rolls have been expressed all month. A coalition of activists have claimed that thousands of voters on the purge list were active, and House Democrats claim to have found 6,500 voters who were improperly set to be purged in several counties. The coalition groups also claimed that information about the purge list is incomplete and that it could lead to others being improperly removed. LaRose acknowledged that about 1,600 voters had been mistakenly flagged for removal and took them off of the purge list.
“Eligible voters shouldn’t have to go through extra hoops to have their ballots counted because of government mistakes,” Rep. Bride Rose Sweeney, D-Cleveland, said in a news conference. “We know how many errors we have found, and they’ve all been found through different entities. This might be just the tip of the iceberg. No one really knows. We’re calling on the secretary of state to halt this purge.”
Maggie Sheehan, a spokesperson for the secretary of state’s office, said in a statement that the law requires the purge of inactive voters to continue.
“We’re proud of providing unprecedented levels of transparency into this process, but we won’t ignore the law,” Sheehan said. “When we partnered with the NAACP, the Ohio Republican Party, the Urban League, church organizations, and labor unions to get voters activated, the Ohio Democratic Party stood on the sidelines. Of course a lawsuit is the next step in their tired playbook.”
According to the secretary of state’s office, abandoned registration causes highly inflated voter roll numbers and the purge is necessary to remove people who have died, moved or chosen not to engage in the voting system.