Accompanied by a brass band and singing “Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho,” a group of Cincinnati nuns gathered outside the Hamilton County Board of Elections Sept. 13 to protest Ohio policies that have purged hundreds of thousands of voters from its voter registration rolls.
The nuns, members of Cincinnati’s Nuns on the Bus chapter, attended the board’s monthly meeting to ask for a moratorium on voter purges in Hamilton County, which they say adversely affect minorities and other marginalized people. The fight over voter registration purges is the latest in a line of high-profile battles over voting in Ohio.
“This is serious, serious issue,” said Monica McGloin, part of the Dominican Sisters of Hope. “Women and men have been beaten, harassed and killed to guarantee us the right to vote. We believe it is morally unacceptable that Hamilton County has failed to do anything in its power to prevent the unwarranted purging of voters in the county.”
The demonstration comes as a legal battle rages over Ohio’s practice of voter purging. Though it’s unclear how many voters have been purged this election season, last year, more than 144,000 were purged from the voting rolls in Ohio’s three largest counties, including more than 14,000 in Hamilton County.
Ohio revokes registration for voters who have not voted in four years and who have not responded to an address verification mailing.
In April, the A. Philip Randolph Institute and the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless filed a lawsuit against Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted over the practice. The groups are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union and Demos, a liberal-leaning New York-based public policy group. A U.S. District Court judge upheld the state’s practices in June, but the ACLU and Demos appealed the case to the U.S. Sixth District Court of Appeals. The U.S. Justice Department joined the suit in July, saying Ohio’s policies violate multiple pieces of voting rights legislation.
The nun’s presence at the board of elections meeting did not sway the board, but they’ve pledged to keep fighting.
“We did not get an answer that is going to end the purge anytime soon, but we’ve registered our disapproval, and we’re looking forward to some action in this issue,” said David Little, a spokesperson for the nuns. “We believe it’s a moral issue, given the fact that marginalized people are disproportionately disenfranchised.”
Following the board meeting and a brief news conference, the nuns and supporters marched back and forth in front of the board of elections headquarters on Broadway Street seven times, symbolizing the seven times Joshua’s army marched around the walls of Jericho in the biblical story.
“In the bible, Joshua led the Israelites in the siege of Jericho, blaring loud horns until the city’s walls came tumbling down,” McGloin said. “As we go out into the community, to stir up massive voter re-registration, we’re going to sound off horns to let elections officials know that the oppressive walls supporting the evil voter purge must come down.”
After the march, the nuns drove their bus to nearby Over-the-Rhine, where they conducted a voter re-registration drive outside local restaurant Venice on Vine.