State, local officials respond to Ohio voting purge court ruling

Published 10:42 pm Tuesday, June 12, 2018

State officials had mixed responses to the Monday, June 11, Supreme Court ruling for Ohio case Husted v. A Philip Randolph Institute.

This case challenged the Ohio voter purge process that is performed after a citizen has not voted during a single two-year federal election cycle.

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The Supreme Court ruled that states may purge voter rolls of registered voters who fail to vote, and who do not respond to a warning.

Democratic House Rep. Terrie Sewell, Alabama, said that voting is not a use it or lose it right.

“It is a permanent right guaranteed by our Constitution,” said Sewell. “The Supreme Court’s misguided decision opens the door for states to disenfranchise voters just because they did not cast their ballot. Already we have seen the impact of this voter suppression tactic in Ohio where more than 7,000 votes were thrown out because of the state’s recent vote purge. In our democracy, your vote is your voice, and we cannot allow lawmakers to silence the voice of the people.

“We must recommit ourselves to fighting voter suppression tactics, from voters purges to restrictive voter ID laws, wherever they exist,” Sewell said.

Sewell is the lead sponsor of the Voting Rights Advancement Act (VRAA), which is legislation that would restore protections for voters in states with a recent history of discrimination, according to a release from Sewell’s office. The VRAA addresses targets “voter ID laws, racial gerrymandering and other voter suppression tactics enacted at the state level.”

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill said he was for the court ruling.

“I am pleased to see that the Supreme Court upheld the maintenance process used by Ohio to ensure voters rolls are the most accurate for voters on election day,” he said. “The process in Alabama is slightly different and requires voters miss two federal elections, and then not respond to two consecutive mailers, which are sent to voters to attempt to ensure the most up-to-date address information is on file with the voter registration system.

“We have made it our mission in the Alabama Secretary of State’s Office to not only ensure every Alabamian is a registered voter with a photo ID, but also that the voter information contained within our voter rolls is the most accurate and up-to-date,” said Merrill. “This process allows us to contact voters to ensure that information is accurate.”

Dallas County Probate Judge, Kimbrough “Kim” Ballard said that letters are sent out to voters each year to keep the Dallas County voting list updated.

“After three cycles of not voting, they are placed on a separate list called inactive voters,” he said. “After that, they have to confirm they are a voter at the polls.”

Ballard said this past election had a turnout of less than 30 percent of the total registered voters in Dallas County.

The case came after Larry Harmon, a software engineer and Navy veteran who lived near Akron, Ohio did not vote in 2012, and also did not vote in the midterm elections in 2010 and 2014.

In 2015, Harmon did want to vote, but found his name had been stricken from the voting rolls. Harmon told news sources that state officials had done this after sending Harmon a notice in 2011 asking him to confirm his eligibility to vote.