Ohio’s Voter Purge Goes to the Supreme Court: What You Need to Know

In November 2015, Larry Harmon went to vote on a ballot initiative, only to find that his name was not on the list at his usual polling location.

He had been purged. The reason? Larry had chosen not to vote in 2012, as he didn’t support either candidate and, he noted, “there isn’t a box on the ballot that says ‘none of the above.’” Larry also did not participate in the 2010 and 2014 midterm elections.

The right to vote includes the right to decide whether, when, and how to exercise that right. Yet Ohio has adopted a “use it or lose it” policy that violated Larry’s right to choose when to vote, and has disenfranchised thousands of registered, eligible Ohioans.

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In April 2016, the ACLU of Ohio and Demos challenged Ohio’s purge process for violating the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, which prohibits removing voters from the rolls solely because they did not vote in an election. We succeeded in blocking the purge for the November 2016 election — a move that allowed more than 7,500 voters who would have been purged to vote by provisional ballot in the presidential election.

Now we are headed to the Supreme Court to defend our victory. The Supreme Court should send a message to Ohio and states across the country that it is unconstitutional to kick voters off the rolls simply for not voting.

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How does Ohio decide whom to purge? 

Under Ohio’s purge rules, registered voters who do not participate in an election in a two-year period are sent a postcard, requesting them to confirm their address. If the voter doesn’t respond or vote in the next two consecutive federal general elections, they’re kicked off the rolls without further notice.

Is that legal? 

Voting in the United States is not a “use it or lose it” right. Ohio’s practice violates the National Voter Registration Act — sometimes called the Motor Voter law — which expressly prohibits removing voters solely because they did not vote in an election or return a piece of mail.

Who is most impacted? 

A Reuters analysis concluded that Ohio’s purge program disproportionately affected voters of color, particularly Black voters. Since Ohio focuses on purging people who vote infrequently, it may be because voters of color or low-income voters, in particular, generally have lower turnout.

We believe, though, that you shouldn’t be disenfranchised just because you vote less frequently than your neighbors.

What's at stake?

In 2016, more than 70 million registered voters didn’t cast a ballot according to the United States Election Assistance Commission. That’s more than a third of all registered voters in the country.

If the Supreme Court rules that states like Ohio can just kick people off the rolls for not voting, then the voting rights of millions of Americans could be at risk.

Want to expand access to the ballot and make our democracy more representative? Get involved. Participate in a “Let People Vote” voting rights action near you. Read more about the Let People Vote campaign here; sign up for updates here.

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Dr. Timothy Leary

I think that we the people should eliminate state governments entirely. In this modern age state governments are unnecessary. In business, it's called cutting out the middle man. We only need to have Federal, County and City governments. No more listening to people moaning about "state's rights". That's a benefit right there.

Anonymous

What you advocate would be comparable to eliminating store management in favor of letting department and corporate management do their job... all because the idea of states rights goes against your federal authritarianisim preference..

Anonymous

We would be better served by eliminating the federal government. After that, we can talk about eliminating state governments.

Max Haiflich, Jr.

Not to mention it would require completely rewriting the Constitution.

Anonymous

Blue2018

Anonymous

Amen

Marilyn

Thank you. This voterfuckery has to stop.

Anonymous

I don't think Ohio's policy is that unreasonable. Voting is a great privilege and should be taken seriously. If you don't care enough about your right to vote to keep your registration accurate and valid, then you don't care. Period. This argument isn't about the "poor disenfranchised voters" who did not get to vote in Ohio. It's about the democrat party's desire to capture the votes of marginal, easily manipulated individuals. Do we really want people who are transient, mentally disabled, drug addicts, high school drop outs, etc. helping decide the country's leadership? Would you let them help you decide how to manage your household income? If not -- and you disagree with Ohio's voter registration policy -- then you are a hypocrite.

Anonymous

And you are a racist bigoted and likely xenophobe as well. The gentleman who is the subject of this suit simply did not vote in every election; however he did not move or have any life changes. He IS registered to vote and Ohio is defrauding him of this right. Do you know of no one who has missed an election due to illness - whether their own or a family member, a primary that had no candidates or issues that got them to vote that day ? There are many reasons to miss an election, there is no reason to deprive a person from voting simply because they have not voted in every election. Unless you have the mentality of a jack booted Nazi.

Anonymous

Have you read what you wrote?
What about of the people, by the people for the people.

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