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Court: Ohioans purged from voter rolls can cast provisional ballots

Ruling reversed Husted action, but some worry people won’t know they are eligible to vote.

More than 1 million Ohio voters purged from the registration rolls still are eligible to cast provisional ballots but they may not know it because Secretary of State Jon Husted has done too little to fix the problem, says state lawmaker Kathleen Clyde, D-Kent.

Husted spokesman Joshua Eck says that’s just not true.

Regardless, here is the scoop: if you were registered but haven’t voted in recent elections, you may have been purged from the voting rolls. But you can still vote a provisional ballot in person for this election. (If you are disabled or homebound, call your county Board of Elections and they’ll bring you a provisional ballot.) Provisional ballots are counted.

Voting rights advocates sued Husted in federal court over Ohio’s “supplemental process” that removed infrequent voters from the registration rolls. In September, the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals said the process violated federal law and sent the case back to the U.S. District Court to iron out how the voting rights of those purged should be restored.

In October, the district court ordered that purged voters may cast provisional ballots in person provided they met certain criteria: they were knocked off the rolls through the “supplemental process” between 2011 and 2015, they still reside in the county where they had been registered, and they haven’t died, been convicted of a felony or incarcerated, or ruled incompetent.

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Husted’s office put a notice on its website describing the process — something that was required by the federal court ruling. And the Secretary of State held webinars for county boards of elections to walk through practical implementation.

Clyde, though, says Husted could have gone beyond meeting the letter of the court order by creating an online look-up of those purged from the rolls and doing more public education via social media and the secretary of state website.

“We are basically in the exact same place…nothing has happened and we are six days from Election Day,” said Clyde, an attorney.

Eck fired back: “It is reckless and irresponsible for someone who claims to be an advocate for voters to be using false and misleading scare tactics on those same voters just days before a presidential election.”

Carrie Davis, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Ohio, said before the Oct. 11 registration deadline, the league and Ohio Voter Rights Coalition contacted 700,000 households via robo and live calls to urge purged voters to re-register and infrequent voters to check their registration. Since then, the message has changed to urging purged voters to vote provisional ballots in-person, Davis said.

“Really, the challenge has been getting that word out to people,” she said. But she stopped short of specifically blaming Husted for not doing more.

“Our view is we could always be doing more to encourage every eligible voter to participate,” Davis said.

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