Photo: HANDOUT
Photo: HANDOUT

275,000 residents get ‘last chance’ to stay registered

The Ohio Secretary of State’s office is sending “last chance” notifications to some 275,000 inactive voters across the state, giving them a final shot at keeping voting registrations active on county rolls.

In Montgomery County, some 17,918 residents should receive the notices, according to the secretary’s office. They will also go to 6,912 Butler County residents and 5,273 residents in Warren County.

The secretary’s office says voters get six years to respond to county boards of elections to confirm registrations.

If residents don’t respond or don’t vote in at least 12 elections, don’t request absentee ballot applications in even-numbered year general elections or don’t have their information automatically updated in transactions with Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles offices — if voters “ignore” those attempts to keep them on the rolls, they are sent a “last chance” notice, said a spokesman for the secretary of state’s office, Matthew McClellan.

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“There’s nothing violent or abrupt about the process,” McClellan said.

Re-activating one’s registration isn’t hard, he said. Follow the instructions in the mailing or notify your county board of elections. Residents can also go to MyOhioVote.com and “get registered in minutes,” McClellan said.

At that web site, citizens can register to vote, note a change in address, review voting eligibility requirements and more.

“No one is Ohio has their voting registration cancelled solely because they don’t vote,” McClellan said. “That just does not happen.”

Still, some observers have concerns, and the process was challenged in court. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected arguments last year that the process amounts to a “purge” of registrations.

Derrick Foward, president of the Dayton unit of the NAACP, is skeptical that such updating of the rolls is necessary as a way to ward off fraud.

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“There’s no evidence of any mass intrusion of voter fraud,” Foward said.

He also disagreed that activating one’s registration is a simple process for everyone.

“You have people who are barely making it who don’t have access to computers,” Foward said. “And we know this because we have people coming to our office to use our computers.”

Mark Caleb Smith, chair of the political science department at Cedarville University, said states have a right to update information about voters.

There has been a history in this country of this kind of process being abused, Smith acknowledged.

But he added: “I don’t really see any evidence in this situation or in similar situations that this is being done purely for discriminatory effect.

“There’s always a balance you can strike between having a reasonable system of voting and then possibly having that system affect certain people in certain ways,” Smith also said. “I don’t know if that’s really escapable.”

The “last chance” mailings were first announced by Secretary of State (now also Ohio Lt. Gov.-elect) Jon Husted last July as a way to keep voter rolls updated, Husted’s office said.

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County boards of elections are required to mail out last-chance notices 30 to 45 days prior to canceling any voter’s registration.

Most of the 275,000 notices are likely being sent to voters who have moved or who have died, Husted’s office said.

Brian Sleeth, director of the Warren County Board of Elections, said the process does help elections boards update information, and in some cases, it’s a nudge for some inactive voters to get involved again, he said.

“I have seen them coming back in,” Sleeth said. “A lot of them, the biggest majority I’ve seen, of the voters who mail back in, say that they live out of state — or they live in another county. If they live in another county, we just forward that notice to the other county, and the other county can register them there.”

He expects people to respond to this latest mailing.

“It’s just another reminder,” he said. “Hey, your voter registration is getting ready to be cancelled. It gives them a timeline.”

For those who have died outside Ohio, board of elections offices usually don’t get that information right away or perhaps at all, Sleeth said.

A message seeking comment was sent to Jan Kelly, director of the Montgomery County Board of Elections.

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