Report: Ohio Was Poised to Mistakenly Purge 40,000 Voters

Roughly one in five voters set to be purged by the Ohio Secretary of State's office was an eligible voter, volunteers found. But the secretary of state's office says it worked to correct errors, many of which it says came from county boards of election.

click to enlarge Report: Ohio Was Poised to Mistakenly Purge 40,000 Voters
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Almost one in five people slated to be removed from Ohio's voter registration rolls were listed in error during an effort by Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose's office to remove inactive voters, according to a report by The New York Times.

Roughly 40,000 names reported by county boards of election on the state's 235,000-name list of inactive voters were voters who should not be removed, volunteers combing the list found. 

LaRose's office takes issue with the idea that the 40,000 voters would have been removed, and points out that it helped investigate data errors and worked to get more voters registered. 

One large chunk of eligible voters was set to be removed due to a data error from an outside vendor the state used. Reporting errors from Franklin County meant another 20,000 voters there, deep blue bastion that is home to Ohio's capital Columbus, were marked for purging, according to the Times story. Also among the names to be removed: League of Women Voters Director Jen Miller, whose organization had been working to register voters and alert those who have found themselves on the purge list. 

LaRose's office, however, says that those voters were never in danger of being purged. 

Part of the reason for the errors is that the boards of election in each of Ohio's 88 counties have their own procedures for removing voters from the lists. 

LaRose's release of the list is the first time a secretary of state has made its purge list public before an election, and his office distributed the 235,000 names to voting rights groups like the LWV prior to the voting registration deadline. LaRose has said that his office has worked to fix the problems. 

Still, the large margin of error calls into question the fairness of the state's voter purge process, critics say.

Under Ohio law, the state can strike voters from its registration records if they have not voted in the past six years and do not respond to mailers asking them to re-register. 

Ohio is just one state that often finds itself pivotal in presidential elections with laws like this. Florida, Texas and other states also purge inactive voters. 

Voting rights groups have challenged the laws in the past, though the Supreme Court narrowly ruled to uphold them last year.

Under an agreement between the American Civil Liberties Union and the A. Philip Randolph Institute of Ohio — two groups that sued over Ohio's law in 2016 — and the secretary of state's office, voters in Ohio who had been purged can still cast a provisional ballot at their polling place through 2022. 

This story has been updated with response from LaRose's office to the Times story.

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