Democrats want to know about 27,000 Ohio voter registration removals, but LaRose says it's the law
Democratic lawmakers are calling on Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose to restore 27,000 voter registrations removed from the rolls last month, which his office says had to happen then because of a limited timeframe under federal law. But they're concerned it was a political move.
Democrats say LaRose removed the voters without trying to help them reregister before the November election, which features two statewide issues he opposes, and that most of the registrations he’s purged over time are younger Ohioans and those from urban areas.
Rep. Bride Rose Sweeney (D-Cleveland) said she sent a letter to LaRose's office after learning about the removal of the voter registrations, which she said happened with "no PR campaign, no audit, and no explanation as to why he paused the purge before the special election in August." She describes the response she received as "littered with misinformation."
"I have asked for specific information necessary to understand why nearly 27,000 Ohioans were purged so that we can have confidence that not one single eligible voter was disenfranchised because of incompetence, or even worse, because of a politically motivated secretary of state," said Sweeney. "And we have not received answers."
Cuyahoga, Lucas and Summit Counties are exempt from removing the registrations because they had September special elections.
Sen. Bill DeMora (D-Columbus) went a step further in his criticism of LaRose: “I'm calling on him, pick a job. Either run for U.S. Senate or stay secretary of state. Because, Frank, you can't do both jobs because you’re not competent enough to do both.”
LaRose shared this response on social media: "I'll NEVER apologize for protecting the integrity of Ohio's elections. It's the law. It's my duty. We removed registrations that have (1) moved or died, (2) haven’t voted at their registered address in FOUR YEARS and (3) haven’t responded to multiple rounds of warnings that they’re eligible for removal. They meet ALL three of those criteria. It's fitting that liberals are trying to help dead people vote on Halloween."
A statement from LaRose's office said when there's no federal election in a given year, the voter roll maintenance process through the National Voter Registration Act may not occur within 30 days of an election, but it may occur at any other point of the year.
"As no federal election occurred in 2023, our Office originally instructed the boards of elections to complete the NVRA process in July of 2023," said the statement. "After the General Assembly ordered the August 8, 2023 election, our Office then shifted the NVRA process to occur in September of this year."
The statement adds: "We are not removing voters, we are removing registrations which we have good cause to believe are invalid. If the voter heads to the polls to vote, it reactivates their registration. They are not shut out of the process."
The Democratic lawmakers agree on that point.
"Check to see if you have been purged. If you have been wrongfully purged, call your Board of Elections," said Sweeney. "Show up to vote anyway and cast a provisional ballot."
But bring photo ID, which is now required for all voters. More than 20% of the provisional ballots cast in August were rejected, and almost a third of those that were rejected were tossed because the voter didn’t have identification. Voters can use unexpired driver's licenses or state of Ohio ID cards, an interim ID form issued by the Ohio BMV, a U.S. passport or passport card, a U.S. military ID card, an Ohio National Guard ID card or a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs ID card. The ID must have a photo, must not be expired and the name must match. Free state IDs are available at the BMV.