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Ohio Voters in Limbo, Outcome of Purge Unknown

An estimated 2 million Ohio voters have been purged from the rolls since 2011. (Kristin Wolff/Flickr)
An estimated 2 million Ohio voters have been purged from the rolls since 2011. (Kristin Wolff/Flickr)
October 17, 2016

COLUMBUS, Ohio – With just 21 days until the November election, tens of thousands of Ohio voters' registrations are in limbo.

A federal court recently ruled the purge of names from the voting rolls was in violation of the Voting Rights Act.

And last week, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted recommended in a court filing that voters removed in 2015 be allowed to cast provisional ballots.

But Camille Wimbish, election administration director for the Ohio Voter Rights Coalition, explains many Ohio voters would still be left out, since about 2 million have been purged from the rolls since 2011.

"Some of those people are deceased, some moved,” she points out. “But the way that they have separated the information it’s really not clear what the reason was for their removal.

“It's not at all clear how many people exactly would be trying to vote in this election. That's part of the problem."

Husted's plan would exclude voters removed prior to 2015, those who moved since they last registered to vote and anyone who needs to vote by mail.

An attorney representing the voters in the federal case says the voters plan to submit a more inclusive proposal to the court.

A final ruling from the U.S. District Court in Columbus is expected any day. Early voting began in Ohio last week.

Judith Browne Dianis, executive director of the Advancement Project, says efforts in Ohio and other states to restrict voting disproportionately affect voters of color.

She adds another complication is the false claims of voter fraud by the Trump campaign and others calling for aggressive poll watching.

"There's this continuing narrative of dreaming and conjuring up the bogeyman, who is going to steal an election, while he's trying to undermine the integrity of our election through these false claims," she states.

Wimbish explains it's up to voters and advocacy organizations to challenge discriminatory voting laws. She says voters must be empowered to make sure their rights are protected, and her group is pitching in.

"We just have this hotline available for anyone who wants to call between now and Election Day, we're here in Ohio answering Ohioans' calls,” she says. “We're also mobilizing volunteers who will be out at the polls on Election Day to help voters."

Wimbish says volunteers with the Election Protection Hotline can answer questions about voter registration, polling locations and respond to reports of problems with the election system. The number is 866-OUR-VOTE.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH