Court Backs Ohio's Cleanup of Voter List

by | July 1, 2016 AT 12:01 PM

By Jim Siegel

Secretary of State Jon Husted is not illegally removing voters from voter registration rolls, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio filed suit in April arguing Husted was too aggressive in his efforts to clean-up voter rolls in an effort to keep the list updated. In recent years, Husted's office has removed 465,000 deceased voters and 1.3 million duplicate registrations from Ohio's voter rolls.

The ACLU argued Husted violated the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 by canceling the registrations of those who do not update their registrations or vote over six years, including three federal general elections. Voters also are sent a confirmation notice.

But U.S. District Judge George C. Smith said Ohio's process is consistent with the Registration Act because voters are never removed from the rolls solely for failure to vote.

The judge noted a confirmation notice is sent to voters who have been inactive for two years, but if they do not respond, they are only placed on an inactive list.

"But their ability to vote does not change at that time," Smith wrote. That status only changes if voters also fail to vote in the next two federal general elections.

"The Court finds that the public interest is being served by Ohio's voter maintenance procedures and will continue to be served as long as Ohio continues to operate in compliance with the (Registration Act)," Smith wrote.

Democrats, including Rep. Kathleen Clyde, D-Kent, have been sharply critical of Husted's efforts, which she has called indefensible voter purging.

Husted has countered voter rolls with deceased voters and Ohioans who move out-of-state contribute to fraud, long lines and discarded ballots. He has noted that in 2011, a number of counties had more registered voters than eligible voters.

"While today's ruling reaffirms that the process Ohio has used for over two decades is constitutional and in line with state and federal law, the best news is that we can put another wasteful lawsuit behind us and focus on the important work of running elections in Ohio," Husted said in a statement.

(c)2016 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)