Now that the GOP has kicked off its convention, Ohio has begun its purge of tens of thousands of Democratic voter names. Republicans are only half as likely as those who vote Democrat to be purged from the voter rolls in Ohio’s biggest counties.
A 59-year-old software engineer Larry Harmon tried to vote on a state ballot initiative in his hometown of Kent, Ohio, but polling officials turned him away. Polls workers said he wasn’t registered. According to Reuters, he said:
“I felt embarrassed and stupid at the time. The more I think about it, the madder I am.
First-time voters who cast their vote for President Obama in 2008, but have not voted since, will find they are no longer registered.
Ohio is at the top of the list, having purged more voters than any other state over a five-year period. Election officials purged a minimum of 144,000 Ohio voters, in its largest counties, since 2012, according to Reuters. Those counties of encompass Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati, which are heavily Democratic cities with a large minority population.
State Representative Democrat Kathleen Clyde has led the charge against the purge:
‘We shouldn’t be playing games with people’s voter registrations and fundamental right to vote. Instead we should be trying to get them to the polls.’
The way this purge works is, if a person misses one election, Ohio sends a letter checking the validity of their address. Then, if the voter does not respond, their name goes onto an inactive list. If the individual doesn’t vote in two elections, officials purge them from the rolls.
Clyde’s office discovered that officials rejected 666 voters in Hamilton County in 2015, due to a “Not Registered” status. But officials purged 15 percent of them only a couple of months prior to the election:
‘Based on this finding from only one election in only one county, it is safe to assume that across the state over multiple elections, tens of thousands of purged voters have had their ballots thrown out.
‘Even worse, these voters do not even know that their votes were rejected because they are not notified when that happens.’
Larry Harmon added his name to a lawsuit by the Democrats and the ACLU of Ohio that challenged the purging. The lawsuit said:
‘As a result of these violations, numerous Ohioans have been disenfranchised in recent elections, and many more face the threat of disenfranchisement in the 2016 Presidential Election and future elections.’
In June, federal district court Judge George C. Smith ruled that the state must ensure:
‘Ohio’s procedures of maintaining the voter registration rolls ensure the integrity of the election process.’
In just one example of the Ohio inequality, Reuters wrote:
‘The disparity is especially stark in Hamilton County, where affluent Republican suburbs ring Cincinnati, which has one of the highest child-poverty rates in the country.
‘In the heavily African-American neighborhoods near downtown, more than 10 percent of registered voters have been removed due to inactivity since 2012. In suburban Indian Hill, only 4 percent have been purged due to inactivity.’
In 2000, the Republican party purged 12,000 people in Florida, labeling them as ex-felons. Had that not happened, George W. Bush would have lost. Former vice-president Al Gore would have won the race by 42 to 171 votes, proving the adage that every vote does count.