In a partisan 5-4 vote, the Court upheld the state of Ohio’s uniquely aggressive efforts to purge its voting rolls, ruling that a state may kick people off the rolls if they skip a few elections and fail to respond to a notice from state election officials.
Every election administrator, myself included, wants to keep the most accurate voter rolls we can, and in Cook County we take painstaking efforts to ensure the information on our rolls is accurate and up to date. When the information we have indicates that a voter has moved, passed away or has been inactive for multiple federal elections, they are removed from our rolls.
In Ohio, after skipping a single federal election cycle, voters are sent a notice. If they fail to respond and do not vote in the next four years, their names are purged from the rolls.
The burden should be on election administrators to keep current voter rolls and not outsource their duty onto the backs of voters.
We can do better. We have sophisticated methods to determine if a voter has moved, and every state should use them.
Ohio has purged 2 million voters since 2011, more than any other state. Black voters – who tend to vote for Democrats – are twice as likely to be purged in the state’s largest counties.
When those carrying out the voter purges are mainly Republicans, we can’t just say this is coincidental.
If the same criteria had been applied to Illinois’ voter rolls, over 300,000 voters would have been made ineligible to participate in the 2016 Presidential Election.
This should not be an issue that cuts along party lines. It should be the mission of all election authorities to encourage voting by eligible voters and bolster the voter rolls with the tools and modern technology we have at our disposal.
Imagine if any private business actively worked to drastically lower their customer base, in the same way that Republican-led states are working to lower the number of voters taking part in elections. They’d go out of business!
The right to vote is the foundation of our democracy. It is a right that people have fought and died for. It is a right that government should ensure is enjoyed by all who are eligible to vote, and not one that should so casually and disrespectfully taken away from any American.
Cook County Clerk