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Voting Rights: Use 'Em or Lose 'Em?

by Countable | 3.9.18

What’s the story?

Ohio says if you don’t vote for at least six election cycles they’re tossing your registration- the voting equivalent of move your feet, lose your seat. Under the Obama administration the federal government opposed the move, but President Trump’s Department of Justice (DOJ) says the purges are perfectly legal. The legal case surrounding the practice has now moved to the Supreme Court, reports the New York Times.

Why does it matter?

The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 and the Help America Vote Act of 2002 contain provisions that require states to keep voter rolls up-to-date by deleting the registrations of voters who move away, but bar states from de-registering people simply because of voting inactivity.

Ohio says it’s complying with the provisions by mailing warnings to voters who have not participated in two federal elections. If the voter then participates in the next four elections or communicates with the Board of Elections, they remain on the rolls. If they don’t, they’re purged.

Obama’s DOJ said the state should have some third-party corroboration, like a change of address filing, to prove the voter had moved before the purge. Trump’s DOJ thinks the current system of warnings by mail is fine.

The state wants to purge over 200,000 registrations under their current system. There are 7.7 million registered voters in Ohio. The potential purged registrations represent 2.6 percent of the total registrations for the state, but primarily comprise poor and minority voters who don’t have reliable mail service or do not speak English.

According to the ACLU suit against the practice, many voters did not even know they had been purged until they showed up to the polls, at which point there was no way to fix the mistake so that their vote was counted in the current election.

What can you do?

Use the Take Action button to tell your reps what you think about this case! Also, we advocate that you vote early and often.

— Asha Sanaker

(Photo Credit: Wikimedia / Creative Commons)

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