Controversial purges from Ohio voter rolls will begin again after a directive Tuesday from Secretary of State Jon Husted, which likely means tens of thousands of inactive voters will become ineligible to cast a ballot.
“Maintaining our voter rolls is a legal requirement and essential part of ensuring Ohio is a place where it is easy to vote and hard to cheat," Husted said in a prepared email statement. "We want every eligible Ohioan to participate in our elections, and we must also preserve the integrity of our elections."
The Republican, who is lieutenant governor-elect, won a 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court case to continue purges that he said both Democrat and Republican secretaries of state have used for nearly a quarter century.
The action is necessary "to make sure the state’s voter rolls are not bloated with names of people ineligible to vote," Husted said.
Ohio Democratic Chairman David Pepper condemned the action.
"During this lame duck period, purging even more voters from Ohio's rolls is the last thing Jon Husted should be doing. His successor, Secretary of State-elect Frank LaRose, assured voters at the end of the campaign that he would stop this nationally infamous process. Husted should defer to that view, and LaRose should demand that he do so. The current supplemental process makes it harder for Ohioans to exercise their fundamental freedom to vote and must be put to an end."
Although he won the high court ruling in June, Husted delayed the purge because they are not allowed within 90 days of a federal election. Ohio's special election to fill a vacancy in the 12th Congressional District was held Aug. 7.
Critics say while maintenance of voter rolls is necessary, Ohio's practice disproportionately affected racial minorities and poor people who tend to back Democratic candidates. LaRose, a GOP state senator from Hudson, said during the campaign he hoped to minimize the practice by allowing voters to update their registrations more easily.
Ohio's policy is essentially this: Any registered voter who doesn't cast a ballot for two consecutive elections are sent a registration confirmation notice by their county elections board. If they do not respond and do not vote over the ensuing four years, they are removed from the rolls and must re-register before they can vote again.
So the immediate purge involves Ohioans who have not voted since 2014 and have not responded to any notices mailed to them.
Husted told each board to make sure those about to be purged did not vote in this month's election, then to mail them cancellation notices no later than Dec. 12. If a voter replies, they stay on the rolls. If they do not, their name will be purged by Jan. 11.