Almost five times as many Ohioans escaped a planned voter registration purge in September than one during the state’s January cancellation, the first since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Ohio’s method of canceling registrations for inactive voters is legal.
Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s office provided final numbers Thursday that show 40,672 registrations remained active after the purge on Sept. 6. That’s nearly five times the 8,439 that avoided the January purge ordered by former Secretary of State Jon Husted, now the lieutenant governor.
LaRose’s office attributes the increase to work with community organizations to help reach voters who received last-chance notices this summer and new exemptions the first-year secretary ordered Ohio’s 88 county boards of elections to follow after problems emerged with the purge.
Last summer, LaRose ordered county boards of elections to provide the list of registered voters who would receive last-chance notices warning them that they would be purged on Sept. 6. He distributed that list to community organizations and individuals so they could contact them and urge them to respond to the notice or take other action to avoid being purged.
Compiling the list, though, exposed flaws in the system. LaRose’s office discovered registrations that should not have received notices during a financial audit. Voting rights advocates and The Dispatch found other registrations that should not have been on the list, including about 1,600 who had cast ballots in the last four years.
In response, LaRose told county boards that they could not purge several categories of voters, including those who moved but remained in the same county.
Ohio purges registrations in two separate but concurrent processes. One compares registrations to a database the U.S. Postal Service compiles of people who have changed addresses. The second, more controversial “supplemental process,” removes voters who have not cast a ballot for six years.
Far more registrations are purged under the supplemental process.
All told, county boards canceled 194,207 registrations in September — about 11,000 more than originally reported after cancellations were included from Portage and Tuscarawas counties and several municipalities in Cuyahoga, Lucas and Summit counties. In January, 268,529 registrations were purged.