Republicans On Another Voter Roll Purging Binge
The Republican war on voters continues apace. In Ohio, state election officials for the first time released their list of 235,000 voters who were slated to be purged from the voting rolls, and volunteers checking the list found a whopping 40,000 voters who were in fact eligible to vote. Including the name of Jen Miller, the state director for the League of Women Voters. The New York Times has the story:
Over the summer, the Ohio secretary of state had sent her organization and others like it a massive spreadsheet with the 235,000 names and addresses that would be purged from the state's voter rolls in just a month — a list of people that, state officials said, some part of the bureaucracy flagged as deceased, living somewhere else or as a duplicate. The League of Women Voters had been asked to see if any of those purged qualified to register again.
Why yes. Yes, they sure did.
Not all the vote-purge news is terrible, however: In Kentucky yesterday, a state judge put the brakes on a Republican attempt to purge 175,000 voters before this fall's gubernatorial election, agreeing with the plaintiffs in a Democratic lawsuit that the move ran too great a risk of disenfranchising qualified voters. So yay for pockets of sanity! In Kentucky.
Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose released the list of to-be-purged voters well in advance of the election so good-government groups like the League of Women Voters and others could make sure it was at least accurate-ish. Ohio has some extremely tough voting laws, like voter ID and the "use-it-or-lose-it" system that purges people who supposedly haven't voted in the last six years, and then don't return a postcard asking them if they're still at the address on file. It's a clever little trick called "purge by postcard" (also known as "caging") that's used in a number of states, nearly all of them run by Republicans.
In 2018, the Supreme Court ruled Ohio's voter purge was perfectly cromulent, even if it "accidentally" purged valid voters and those voters happen to belong to groups who are more likely to vote for Democrats. Gotta protect the ballot from all the nonexistent fraud!
LaRose decided to release the list -- the first time that's ever been done -- because after that ruling, many Ohioans were still pissed about previous purges of registered voters. Voting rights advocates appreciate the transparency, which is a lot better than just striking people and letting them find out on election day, but they understandably would prefer not to have people's right to vote depend on nonprofits and volunteers making sure the state isn't fucking people over.
And oh, golly, if the list had remained secret, there would have been some fuckery, since one in five names on the purge list shouldn't have been on it at all.
In one case, a data mistake from an outside firm meant a large number of people's names were set to be knocked off. Ohio's 88 counties each used a different process of removing people from the rolls, an immediate source of headaches for officials trying to compile a statewide list.
And voting rights groups found an unexplained tranche — around 20,000 people — who had been marked to be purged because of inactivity in future election cycles, but were actually active voters in previous Ohio elections. These voters were in Franklin County, a Democratic stronghold in the state.
As for Jen Miller, she doesn't know why her name was removed: She's definitely not an "inactive voter," she told the Times.
"I voted three times last year," said Ms. Miller. "I don't think we have any idea how many other individuals this has happened to."
It must have been that Minority Report pre-cog "future inactive voting."
The list-checking relies on people giving a damn and searching the data themselves, like one guy the Times story profiles; he's a database nerd and does that sort of thing for fun. Thing is, we hold to the quaint, perhaps unreasonable notion that in a functioning representative democracy (what you'd call a republic), the government should be the one making sure it's not disenfranchising anyone. Yeah, we're utopians that way.
Incidentally, LaRose is getting flak from fellow Ohio Republicans, who object to even the patchwork crowdsourcing he initiated, because they're sure voter fraud is rampant, and he says it isn't. Worse, when more people are allowed to vote, it's harder for Republicans to win, and doesn't he understand how America works? He's also a bit worried other Republican-run states will react poorly to Ohio's finding and fixing its little oopsie before election day:
Asked if officials outside of Ohio would follow his lead in releasing lists ahead of time, he said he didn't want them to "take the wrong lesson" from fixing problems in a voter purge.
"I hope that other states don't look at what we've done and say, 'We're not doing it,'" he said.
Sort of makes you think LaRose knows his own party entirely too well.
Over in Kentucky, a state judge ruled yesterday that the state would have to return 175,000 voters to the active voter list, putting the kibosh on a disenfranchisement effort that started when the wingnut group Judicial Watch sued in federal court, complaining that Kentucky wasn't purging its voter rolls enough. As a result, some counties had more names on their voter rolls than there were in their official population counts -- which only means that there were inactive voters on the list, not that there was any proof of actual frauding.
As a result, the state agreed in a consent decree to do some purging, but the state Democratic Party sued the state Board of Elections, arguing that putting people on an inactive list would have a chilling effect on voter participation, which, duh, is the point:
[Voters] on the list would be pulled from the line, made to sign an oath, and possibly have to wait for action by the County Clerk, County Board of Elections or a circuit judge before they could vote.
Instead, Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate suggested just putting an asterisk next to the names of those whose address was in question, so poll workers could check their eligibility before they vote. Attorney Anna Whites, representing the Democrats, said that worked for her, so Wingate ruled yeah, let's do that, OK?
"Not every voter has the luxury of waiting for a possible lengthy period of time to jump through unnecessary hoops when the State Board of Elections' intent can be achieved through simpler, less prejudicial means such as placing an asterisk by the names of the 175,000 individuals on the master voter list and having poll workers confirm each voter's address," wrote Wingate in the ruling.
Whites said the decision would benefit both parties, since the purge list contained about equal numbers of Rs and Ds. Wingate also said since the purge system hadn't been voted on by the Board, it might violate the federal consent decree, too.
Jared Dearing, the Board of Elections executive director, said he didn't like that Wingate was just making stuff up, because it was new and not the way they did it before and poll workers already knew how to tell people they're out of luck, go home, but this arrangement might cause confusion. Worst of all, it would allow people to vote, though he didn't say that.
So hooray for people voting! Get ready for Fox News to complain that Kentucky Democrats are out to steal this fall's gubernatorial election from incumbent wingnut Matt Bevin, through the sneaky fraudulent strategy of allowing people to vote.
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