With the Election Day on November 8 just a scant 45 days away, the 2016 election in Ohio just got a lot messier in the wake of a ruling by a federal district appeals court that state election officials violated the National Voters Registration Act by wrongfully purging eligible voters.
Muddying the waters further, Ohio’s chief election officer has decided not to send absentee ballot applications to 1,032,775 registered voters who didn’t vote in the 2012 or 2014 federal elections or who are thought to have moved, an investigation by the Akron Beacon Journal [ABJ] found. Stated another way, one in seven registered voters in Ohio won’t receive an absentee ballot request form in the mail for the upcoming election cycle. The ABJ learned as part of its research that some of these voters have voted as recently as March and haven’t moved.
Meanwhile, early voting in Ohio starts on Oct. 12, a week earlier than in previous years due to a court ruling that upheld Ohio’s elimination of Golden Week, a time when voters could register and vote on the same day. Democrats have assailed Republicans for shortening the time to vote early in Ohio, arguing the process of sending out ballot requests and trimming early voting is an attack on the rights of constituents. Republicans counter that it’s still a generous amount of time.
In 2012, 1.8 million voters, or a third who participated, voted early by mailing or handing in their ballots to a county board of elections in the five weeks before the November election.
On Saturday, at its state convention, Democrats adopted a resolution calling for full restoration of illegally purged voters’ voting rights, including sending absentee ballot applications to illegally purged and all other registered voters.
Dems argued in their resolution that state election officials have, in recent years, purged millions of voters from the voting rolls across Ohio. Simultaneously, they said, Ohio’s chief election official, Jon Husted, a Republican, has selectively sent absentee ballot applications to voters across Ohio, excluding approximately 1 million voters across the state from receiving these applications.
Now that the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has ruled that Mr. Husted violated federal law by improperly using infrequency of voting as a trigger for the purging of Ohio voters, he should “immediately restore the voting rights of all illegally purged voters by restoring their names as active, registered voters, to be included in poll books throughout the State just like all other registered voters.”
Democrats are scrambling to get out the vote in Ohio, a key battleground state Barack Obama won in 2008 and 2012. This year, though, the contest between Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump is a toss up with Trump leading Clinton in some polls.
To help boost turnout, President Obama, who has only a few more months left in office, will return to the state capital, Columbus, to headline the party’s annual state dinner on Oct. 13, one day after early voting starts.