Judge Denies Democrats’ Request To Block Ohio’s Coming Voter Purge

COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 06: Republican candidate Frank LaRose gives his victory speech after winning Ohio Secretary of State on November 6, 2018 at the Ohio Republican Party's election night party at the Sheraton Capitol Square in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Justin Merriman/Getty Images)
Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose in November 2018. (Photo by Justin Merriman/Getty Images)
September 3, 2019 6:08 p.m.

A federal judge denied a request by the Ohio Democratic Party to block a voter purge the state plans to implement this Friday.

The judge, U.S. District Judge James Graham, said Tuesday that the Democrats had failed to provide sufficient evidence that thousands of eligible Ohio voters stand to be improperly removed from the rolls. He also said those Ohioans can either re-register by next month and still vote in the coming elections, or vote provisionally, as election officials have been instructed to count the ballots of certain voters who were removed in recent purges.

The lawsuit was the latest volley in a years-long war over Ohio’s system of beginning its purge process merely because a voter did not participate in a certain time period of elections. Under the regime, registrants who don’t vote within two years of elections are sent a mailer notifying them they could be removed from the rolls. If they don’t respond to the mailer or engage in voter activity — which also includes signing a petition or updating registration information — within the following four years, they are removed.

The purge scheduled for Friday will be the second round of removals since the Supreme Court okayed last year Ohio’s use of voter inactivity to trigger this process. But scrutiny of it has continued, particularly after the new GOP secretary of state released the list of voters planned for removals in the coming purge as part of one last round of outreach efforts. Voting rights groups and media outlets say they have found thousands of registrants who are still eligible to vote in the state and thus shouldn’t be purged.

They have asked the secretary of state, Frank LaRose (pictured above) to pause the purge so more vetting and outreach can be done based on the list.

LaRose’s office has claimed he is obligated by state law to continue the purge process his predecessor started.

“We’ll continue our work to carry out the law and our mission to run accessible, secure and accurate elections,” his spokesperson said in a statement after the judge’s order came down Tuesday.

Some 235,000 voters were on the purge list LaRose released, but at least 10,000 of them have reactivated their registrations and thus will not be removed on Friday. The purge list also includes voters being removed based on change-of-address records, in addition to those removed for inactivity.

The Democrats’ lawsuit, filed on Friday, was separate from the longstanding case in which a settlement was reached earlier this week. That settlement had to do with allegations that the notices the state sent for to-be-purged voters did not comply with the National Voter Registration Act.

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