Ohio Quietly Purges 27,000 Voters From Rolls Ahead of Abortion Vote

The anti-abortion Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R) ordered the cancelations before voters decide on Issue 1, which would codify abortion in the state.

Ohio Quietly Purges 27,000 Voters From Rolls Ahead of Abortion Vote
Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose. Photo:Getty Images

In the latest example of Ohio Republicans showing they’ll do anything to thwart an abortion ballot measure, state officials canceled the registrations of nearly 27,000 inactive voters. On November 7, voting ends for Issue 1, which would amend the state constitution to enshrine the right to abortion. (The pro-choice position is to vote “yes.”)

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R) ordered the purge of 26,666 voters in late September but didn’t announce the move. About 4,700 purged voters are from Franklin County, which includes the Democratic stronghold of Columbus. People who were purged can re-register to vote—but, importantly, not in time to vote on the ballot measure. The deadline for this election was October 10.

LaRose is a strongly anti-abortion politician who is running for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D). He was a vocal supporter of the failed campaign to raise the threshold for ballot measures, which he admitted was “100%” a strategy to try to stop the abortion referendum from passing. (That tactic failed.)

Interestingly, he told county boards this summer to pause any purges before the August special election that could have kneecapped the abortion vote, but let them go ahead with cancelations now that Issue 1 only needs a simple majority to pass. So LaRose’s actions meant there were more voters available for the August election he supported than for the November election he opposes. He could have waited until after Election Day to do this—which he did after the 2022 midterms, but not this year. Huh!

Ohio state Rep. Rose Sweeney (D) sent a letter to LaRose calling him out for his inconsistency. “This is a purge of choice,” Sweeney said. “The very least you can do is wait until after the election to do it. That is what your office did when you purged over 124,000 voters after the November 2022 election. You even stopped the purge before the August 2023 election, but now that our reproductive rights, our very lives, are on the November ballot, you have rushed to purge voters.”

LaRose’s office said in response that Sweeney’s claims are “ridiculous” and said he was following federal law on inactive voters, but did not address the issue of timing or lack of transparency.

Kayla Griffin from All Voting Is Local Ohio told the Ohio Capitol Journal that, in the past, the Secretary of State’s office has announced the cancelations, which allowed voting rights groups to try to contact people on the list so they can fix the issue. “Because of this lack of usual notification, groups like All Voting is Local and our partners could not inform voters they may have been purged and would need to register to vote again before the voter registration deadline that was just 12 days later,” Griffin said.

It seems like Ohio Republicans really, really don’t want people to vote for this ballot measure. I think you know what to do in response.

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