Time to hit pause on voter purge
Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose indeed is required by law to oversee a cleanup of voter registration lists in the state’s 88 counties. However, reports of serious errors in the process suggest pausing it for a time may not be a bad idea.
Some Democratic Party leaders, in a pattern seen in many states, allege what is happening in Ohio is a reckless attempt to suppress voters. It is no such thing. In LaRose’s case, it is simple compliance with state law.
Leaving tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of people who may not be qualified to cast ballots on registration lists is both sloppy and an invitation to voter fraud. That is why cleanups — purges in Buckeye State terminology — are not at all uncommon. The one in Ohio was triggered by a 2015 state law and begun by LaRose’s predecessor, Jon Husted, who is now lieutenant governor.
The process has built-in safeguards. Ohioans who have not voted for four years receive notices informing them they need to respond to keep their voter registrations active. Those who do are not purged from the lists.
But failure to vote during a four-year period, then lack of response to the notices, can trigger removal of names.
Election boards throughout the state were instructed earlier this summer to remove more than 235,000 names, based on information from the boards that people had died, moved or had stopped voting.
But mistakes were made in information provided to the county boards. Those errors, by a company hired to help with the process, resulted in improper addition of some names to the purge lists. The Columbus Dispatch found more than 1,600 names of people who had voted within the last four years.
LaRose’s office admits some errors were made. Representatives of the vendor, Election Systems & Software, met last week with LaRose’s staff to discuss the situation.
LaRose insists his office needs to move forward with the purge process. Indeed, it does need to be completed. But plowing ahead in the knowledge thousands of mistakes may be made would not be prudent. Until LaRose and his staff are reasonably certain flaws have been corrected, a temporary pause in the work may be prudent.