More than 600 voters registered in Athens County are at risk of being purged from state voting rolls in December, a list published by Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose shows.
A review of LaRose’s recently released list, which outlines the nearly 116,000 registered voters in the state who are scheduled to be purged from voting rolls, found that the vast majority of those facing removal in Athens County are registered within The City of Athens.
Many of the nearly 350 voters to be purged in The City of Athens are listed with home addresses located either on Ohio University’s campus or at off-campus student housing.
But it’s likely that many have since graduated and moved away from the area without updating their voter registrations given that it takes six years of not voting in federal elections to end up on the purge list, said Director of The Athens County Board of Elections Debbie Quivey.
Though, plenty of non-student voters across the city are also slated to lose their registration.
Nelsonville has the second largest population of inactive voters in the county, with 68 who could be removed in December. The Plains, Albany, Coolville and Glouster all have between 30 and 50 inactive voters.
Smaller rural municipalities within the county have far fewer voters deemed inactive. It’s not clear how many, if any, voters have updated their registrations since the release of the list.
Those on the chopping block, however, have a few options at their disposal to prevent the impending loss of their registration. Voting in the upcoming presidential election, updating their address or requesting an absentee ballot all can save them from removal, according to LaRose.
Ohio has purged from state rolls what it calls “inactive voters” – those who haven’t cast a ballot in six years and didn’t respond to mailers asking to update their registration – since the early 1990s.
The U.S. Supreme Court in 2018 upheld Ohio’s law that permits the removal of inactive voters in a narrow 5-4 decision after the state was required to temporarily halt purges until a ruling was made. But voter purges remain controversial.
Democratic officials, voting rights groups and other left-leaning activist organizations have long criticized the practice, saying it’s a form of voter suppression that disproportionally affects those of lower incomes and younger voters, such as college students, who are more likely to frequently move.
LaRose called removing inactive voters from state rolls “the right thing to do.”
Quivey indicated in an interview that she has conflicting opinions about the practice of purging voters. She prefers to not even use the word “purge.”
“We send confirmation notices out and there’s so many times we reach out, I feel like you need to take responsibility to take care of your voter registration as you would your driver’s license,” Quivey said.
She later continued, “The reason I’m not going to say I’m completely supportive of it, because I have that part of me that wants everybody to vote.”
When Ohio conducted its last purge in September 2019, more than 2,000 voters registered in Athens County were removed from state rolls, according to WOUB Public Media. Little more than 100 voters in the county took action that year to renew their registration prior to the purge.
That purge, which was originally supposed to remove more than 200,000 voters statewide, came under national scrutiny after organizers with The League of Women Voters of Ohio uncovered that the state nearly wrongfully removed the registrations of about 40,000 voters who were still active.
LaRose later said in an interview with The Columbus Dispatch and USA Today that the 2019 purge was “unacceptably messy.”
League of Women Voters of Athens County Co-President Adriane Mohlenkamp said the league is working at the state level to reach out to those set to be purged in December and “make a plan” to ensure LaRose’s recently released list is accurate.