Friday, 3 June 2016

Non-voters being disenfranchised in Ohio

The Disenfranching Of America - Ohio Moves To Block Voters Who Missed Previous Elections

2 June, 2016

In the latest attempt by a state to disenfranchise voters, Ohio residents are finding that if they haven't voted in the past six years, they will be purged from the voting rolls.

With election day fast approaching, a renewed focus is being put on the fact that Ohio has removed tens of thousands of voters from registration lists for not having voted since 2008. While the number of voters that have been purged statewide is unclear, in Ohio's three biggest counties that include Cleveland, Cincinnati and Columbus, at least 144,000 voters have been removed Reuters reports. With both Republican an Democratic officials presiding over the program throughout the last twenty years, it doesn't seem to be driven by one party or another. On the other hand, Reuters finds that the purge of voters in Democratic leaning neighborhoods is at roughly twice the rate as in Republican neighborhoods. Reuters also found that neighborhoods having a higher proportion of poor, African-American residents are hit the hardest. That's because residents of relatively affluent Republican leaning neighborhoods are more likely to vote in both congressional elections and presidential contests historical turnouts show. Democrats are less likely to vote in mid-term elections and thus are more at risk of falling off the rolls.

In the heavily African-American neighborhoods near downtown Cincinnati, more than 10% of registered voters have been removed due to inactivity since 2012In suburban Indian Hill, only 4% have been purged. Overall, 30,000 voters have been removed due to inactivity since 2012 in Hamilton County, which is a larger figure than Obama's margin of victory that year.

"It's absolutely unfair" said Donna Porter-Jones, an organizer at Amos Project, an interfaith group that aims to register 30,000 voters from some of Cincinnati's poorest neighborhoods.

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, says that canceling registrations for voters who missed three straight federal elections helps keep voting rolls current, and since 2011, Ohio has cleared out more than 2 million records of people who have moved or died. Critics of the move, such as Kathleen Clyde, a Democratic state representative, say that "you shouldn't be struck of your right to vote because you skipped an election." - most states only remove voters from the rolls if they have died or moved to a new address.

Husted, on the other hand, believes that "if this is really an important thing to you in your life, voting, you probably would have done so within a six-year period. Those who don't vote over a six year period or respond to a postcard mailed to their address have only themselves to blame."

Alas, while that may be a true statement, recognizing someone's right to vote, no matter how infrequently, should be something that is important to elected officials - but we digress.
This is critically important, because not only does it disenfranchise voters, Ohio is a key swing state in presidential elections, and has backed the winner in every presidential election since 1960. Ohio residents who find themselves removed from voting lists must re-register at least 30 days before an election, and if voters who are purged fail to re-register, it could potentially mean the difference between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as president.
Four civil liberties groups sued to end the practice last month, arguing that it violates federal law and unfairly targets low-income and minority voters. Voting rights advocates say they are concerned that many infrequent voters who helped drive turnout to a record in the 2008 presidential election won't be able to vote in this year's likely matchup between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

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In places such as Kansas and Ohio, it's difficult to understand (or perhaps not) how this type of legislation is allowed to pass and continue. Just as Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe singed a bill that allows convicted felons to vote again, these are all tricks to either include or exclude voters in order to gain a political upper hand, and it is being played right out in the open for all of the nation to see.

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