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Problems Plague Ohio Voter Purges

The early voting center at the Franklin County Board of Elections in Columbus.
John Minchillo
Associated Press
Teays Valley High School senior Emily Legg (left) and Secretary of State Frank LaRose after unveiling her winning "I Voted" sticker design.

In this week's episode of Snollygoster, Ohio's politics podcast from WOSU, hosts Mike Thompson and Steve Brown talk about the ongoing battle over how Ohio maintains its voter rolls. Jen Miller, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Ohio, joins the show.

Listen to Snollygoster on the WOSU Public Media mobile app, on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts. And make sure to leave a rating and review!

On this week's episode:
Get Out The Vote

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Ohio’s process for keeping voter rolls up to date, but the controversy has not gone away.

Under Ohio law, voter registrations can be canceled after a voter receives a notice that they didn’t vote for six straight years or 12 consecutive elections, and does not take action in the next four years to keep their registration active.

It may seem fairly straight-forward, but the process has been clouded with issues. A recent Columbus Dispatch analysis found the list of more than 235,000 registrations eligible to be canceled had a lot of people who didn’t belong there. The Dispatch found at least 1,600 of those people had voted in the past four years, many of them in 2018.

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose has blamed the error on a private vendor that gave election data to counties. He says it’s highly unlikely eligible voters will be removed and that the law requires him to move forward, but he’s still getting pressure from voting rights activists to put the purge on hold. In a recent lawsuit settlement with the ACLU of Ohio, the state will allow purged voters to cast provisional ballots in elections through 2022.

Opioid Lawsuits

Ohio Attorney General David Yost wants to take control of all the lawsuits filed by cities against drug companies, accusing them of causing the opioid epidemic.

Yost is supporting a bill that would block local governments from filing suits against drug companies by giving the Attorney General total authority to file lawsuits of statewide concern. The bill would also send Yost’s office 5% of any potential settlements.

Yost maintains the system would be more fair. But local officials call it an unconstitutional power grab and Gov. Mike DeWine said this week it would be a "serious mistake."

Snollygoster Of The Week

The small Central Ohio city of Obetz hired a lobbyist to help attract businesses: convicted felon and admitted extortionist John Rayfeal. Rayfeal pleaded guilty to charges of extorting the city of Columbus’ former red light camera vendor and demanding political bribes if they wanted to keep their contract.

The city hired Rayfeal in a no-bid contract that included a one-time payment of $10,000 and then $5,ooo a month going forward. They just extended the contract after it surpassed $45,000. 

Send your comments and suggestions to snollygoster@wosu.org.

Mike Thompson spends much of his time correcting people who mispronounce the name of his hometown – Worcester, Massachusetts. Mike studied broadcast journalism at Syracuse University when he was not running in circles – as a distance runner on the SU track team.
Steve Brown grew up in nearby Richwood, Ohio and now lives there with his wife and sons. He started his journalism career as a weekend board operator at WOSU while majoring in journalism at Ohio State, where he also wrote for the student newspaper The Lantern and co-founded the organization Students for Public Broadcasting.