XENIA — While the Supreme Court’s June 11 ruling to uphold Ohio’s process for purging voters impacts all Ohioans — including Greene County residents — voters won’t be taken off the rolls between now and the November 2018 election, a county official says.
Greene County Board of Elections (BOE) Director Llyn McCoy cited provisions under the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) which sets a time frame for cancellations before a federal election. Section 8 of the act says a general list maintenance program — or the process of removing ineligible voters from the voter rolls — must be completed 90 days prior to the election.
The recent 5-4 decision determined the way Ohio cleans up its voter rolls doesn’t violate federal law. Ohio has been using voters’ inactivity to trigger the removal process since 1994, according to the Associated Press, and other states also use similar practices.
McCoy said BOE voter maintenance records are generally processed in the summer.
“Under Secretary of State [Jennifer] Brunner records were processed every two years; now under Secretary of State [Jon] Husted records are processed once a year. What this means to voters is that previously the voter could miss voting in two federal elections before being flagged however now if the voter misses one federal election the voter is flagged,” McCoy explained.
McCoy said two lists are used during the process: a National Change of Address (NCOA) list which flags voters who changed their address with the post office, and a supplemental list which flags voters who missed voting in a federal election.
Flagged voters are then sent a confirmation card from the county’s BOE asking for address verification.
“If a voter does not return the confirmation card and does not vote in the next two federal elections or does not have any other type of voter activity (such as signing a petition) the voter is then removed,” McCoy said.
If the voter is unaware of the removal and goes to the polls to vote on Election Day, a provisional vote would not count either as he or she would be no longer be registered. The provisional form would register that voter, though, McCoy said.
While Justice Samuel Alito said Ohio was complying with the NVRA, other justices dissented. Justice Stephen Breyer said he thought people often discarded mailings without looking at them.
According to an AP report, in a separate dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said Congress enacted the voter registration law “against the backdrop of substantial efforts by states to disenfranchise low-income and minority voters.” The court’s decision essentially endorses “the very purging that Congress expressly sought to protect against,” Sotomayor wrote.
“While I believe that the accuracy of voter rolls must be maintained, I think that flagging a voter after missing one federal election is too stringent,” McCoy said. “A lot of folks may miss voting in one federal election and have not moved. We get a lot of false positives unfortunately. I think that flagging after missing two federal elections may find in more accurate results.”
The board’s director said she doubted the process does much to prevent voter fraud, which she said seems to have been overstated.
“I do think that the voter has a responsibility to check their records periodically to make sure their information is up to date and accurate,” she continued.
Greene County residents can check and update their voter status using the “Voter Lookup” tool on the BOE website. Residents can also find voter registration information on the website at https://bit.ly/2qwVsnL. The deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 6, 2018 general election is Tuesday, Oct. 9.
Contact Anna Bolton at 937-502-4498 or follow @annadbolton on Facebook.