COLUMBUS – In accordance with his duty as Ohio Secretary of State and following both federal and state law, Secretary LaRose has recently directed county boards of elections to remove abandoned registrations from the rolls. The US Supreme Court upheld the law as carried out by Secretaries Brown, Blackwell, Taft, Brunner, and Husted, but no previous Ohio Secretary of State has ever provided the same level of transparency or collaboration. The result has been a greater opportunity for identifying errors by the boards and more chances for voters to remain active.
The process began in August 2020 when 115,816 registrations were identified as abandoned. Those identified as abandoned within the supplemental process were placed on the list because they had no voter activity whatsoever for at least six years. In addition to previous communications, all abandoned registrations were notified of their placement on the list and the many ways to remain an active registered voter, including:
- Voting in the November 3, 2020 election;
- Responding to the 2016 confirmation notices from the county board of elections;
- Requesting an absentee ballot application;
- Updating or confirming their address online, by mail, or in-person;
- Updating their registration online, by mail, or in-person;
- BMV transaction
Directive 2020-14 set in place a deadline of December 7, 2020 for county boards of elections to identify for removal the abandoned registrations who did not take any of the above actions. The four months from notification to removal is the longest on record by an Ohio Secretary of State.
After a thorough review of the submitted data, 97,795 registrations have been removed from county board of elections voter registration databases. That means between August 21st and December 7th, nearly 18,000 registrants were no longer at risk of being cancelled under this process. More than 10,000 of these registrations chose to vote in the 2020 General Election.
The list of registrations removed by the county boards of elections may be found here: www.ohiosos.gov/registrationreadiness
Reasons for abandonment are often due to duplicate registrations, moving from the registration address and failing to cancel the original registration, or the death of the registrant. It is possible that registrations which appear on the cancellation list may have taken action after December 7th to become an active voter. Those registrations may contact their county board of elections for confirmation.
Any eligible Ohioan who may have been cancelled may learn how to immediately re-register in just a few easy steps by visiting VoteOhio.gov.
In an effort to reach out to those identified as abandoned registrations, Secretary LaRose once again enlisted the cooperation of outside organizations like the NAACP, Ohio Council of Urban Leagues, Ohio Latino Commission, Ohio Right to Life, and dozens of others.
“Getting rid of bad voter data from the voter rolls helps prevent fraud, makes it easier for county boards of elections to do their jobs, and strengthens the confidence Ohioans place in our elections,” said LaRose. “I’m proud we’ve developed a way of doing this that empowers both the voter and the voting rights community, all while fulfilling my obligation to maintain accurate voter lists. There’s no question – we’re providing a successful model for other states to follow.”
The voter list maintenance process is required by both state and federal law. As part of the supplemental process required under law, registrants who have been inactive for two years receive a confirmation notice asking them to confirm that they are still at that address and wish to remain a registered voter. If that record remains inactive for another four years or six years of total inactivity, it must be removed from the voter rolls. In total, an abandoned voter registration under the supplemental process must have been inactive for at least six years or 12 elections before being removed from the rolls.
In 2016, the previous administration issued Directives 2016-17 and 2016-20 directing boards to send confirmation notices to those registrations that have been inactive for the previous two years or appear on the National Change of Address (NCOA) List. The 2016 confirmation notices sent pursuant to the Supplemental and NCOA processes began the forward-looking four-year clock for the registration to engage in voter activity.
MODERNIZING VOTER REGISTRATION WILL CREATE MORE ACCURATE VOTER ROLLS
Secretary LaRose has called on Ohio to embrace a more modernized voter registration system that will make our voter rolls both more accurate and secure. Instead of relying on voters to remember to update their information at their local board of elections or on the Secretary of State website, it would allow voter registration data to be more easily and efficiently updated. By requiring state government to integrate the technology and resources at its disposal, voters will be able to update their registration information when they interact with state government entities such as the BMV. This improvement will significantly improve the accuracy of Ohio’s voter rolls. This initiative is a priority of Secretary LaRose in the current General Assembly.
NEW LEGISLATION TO ENSURE MORE SECURE, BETTER VENDOR SERVICE
Secretary LaRose has also recommended legislation that will place voter registration database systems under the purview of a re-named Board of Voting System Examiners (BVSE). By requiring vendors to meet required standards, Ohio will greatly reduce a significant vulnerability. Enhanced cyber-security protections and oversight will mitigate the risk that foreign actors can manipulate our voter registration systems and deliver more accurate and efficient data to Ohio’s 88 county boards of elections. A Board of Voting System Examiners will allow for a stronger, more accurate, and more secure voter registration system.
WHY DID THIS VOTER LIST MAINTENANCE PROCESS NEED TO TAKE PLACE?
It’s important to understand that once a confirmation notice has been sent, law explicitly requires the cancellation of an inactive registration if it has not had voter activity over the next four years. In this case, the previous administration issued two directives in 2016 ordering county boards of elections to mail notices to electors pursuant to the supplemental and NCOA processes. This action started the four-year clock for the cancellation of their registration, pending voter activity.
WHAT DOES THE LAW SAY?
(A) The registration of a registered elector shall be canceled upon the occurrence of any of the following:
(7) The failure of the registered elector, after having been mailed a confirmation notice, to do either of the following:
(a) Respond to such a notice and vote at least once during a period of four consecutive years, which period shall include two general federal elections;
(b) Update the elector's registration and vote at least once during a period of four consecutive years, which period shall include two general federal elections.
ARE ERRORS EXPECTED TO BE FOUND?
There are more than 8 million voter registrations in Ohio that are overseen by 88 different county boards of elections which utilize five different private vendors, each with different computer systems, to help manage their process. Additionally problematic is the heavy reliance our antiquated voter registration system places on manual data entry systems. Errors may happen. That’s exactly why Secretary LaRose has adopted a policy of transparency to ensure that this lawfully required duty is completed as accurately as possible. By effectively “crowd-sourcing” the review of this list and improving the internal review his office does, Secretary LaRose has created more opportunities than ever for errors to be found and corrected. Additionally, it’s why he wants to improve upon the system via the legislation highlighted above.