Voting is easier than ever before

Voting is easier than ever before
© Greg Nash

For the last eight years as Ohio’s chief election official, I have seen the lengths to which some will go in order to gain a perceived political advantage. This unfortunately includes passing off falsehoods as fact. The latest example being the January 5 opinion piece that ran in The Hill, which included the gross misrepresentation that, “voters can be purged based on failure to vote in just one federal election cycle.”

That’s just not so — but it’s likely to scare supporters into thinking their vote is being taken away and motivate donors to keep cutting checks. Neither of which is right. The truth that those pushing this misinformation refuse to acknowledge is that it has never been easier to vote in America, especially in Ohio. But that doesn’t fire up their base or pay the bills.

So here are the facts.

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In Ohio, we work hard to get every eligible person registered to vote and keep them on the rolls. During my tenure as secretary of state, we launched online voter registration and online change of address, services that more than 750,000 Ohioans have utilized. Additionally, we have contacted more than two million people who were eligible to vote, but not registered.

Once a registered voter, casting a ballot is easy and convenient. Ohio voters have nearly a month to participate in every election. This includes more than 200 hours to vote in person between absentee and Election Day voting. Voters can also request and cast their ballot without ever leaving home. Ahead of every even-numbered year general election, the secretary of state’s office sends absentee ballot applications to all registered voters. A practice that started with my administration.

When it comes to maintaining an accurate voter database — something both state and federal laws require us to do — we make every effort to keep voters on the rolls. We do not “purge” anyone from the rolls as some would have you believe. The truth is that we want every eligible Ohioan to be a registered voter.

The process for cancelling someone’s voter registration in Ohio takes six years. During this period, voters have at least 12 different elections to engage in some type of voter activity and nearly a half dozen opportunities to respond to attempts made by state officials to contact them.

At least four separate mailings are sent out by elections officials that include a voter confirmation notice, at least two absentee ballot applications, and a “last chance” notice sent out 30 to 45 days prior to a voter’s registration being cancelled. Additionally, any time a voter updates their information with the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles, that information is automatically shared with elections officials to update their voting information.

We have also made it so all information pertaining to someone’s voter registration is available at their fingertips. Using a secure online portal established by my administration — MyOhioVote.com — a person can quickly and easily check their registration status, update their information if needed, and become a registered voter in a matter of minutes.

There is nothing abrupt or violent about this process. If our intent was really to “purge” the voter rolls, election officials in our state would not go to the lengths we do to keep people registered to vote and make it as easy as we do to get registered and maintain that status. To be removed a person has to go six years without participating in any voter activity, ignore multiple attempts made by election officials to contact them, and not visit their local registrar’s office to update or renew their driver’s license.

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To any rational person, the way we conduct elections and maintain our voter rolls in Ohio makes sense and is reasonable. And it should. We make it easy and convenient for people to get on the voter rolls and the way we maintain those rolls has been administered the same way by both Democrat and Republican secretaries of state for a quarter century. When a group represented by the ACLU and Demos challenged our list maintenance efforts, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the process.

When people resort to gross misrepresentations designed to create unfounded outrage based on manufactured controversy, the only thing accomplished is an erosion of the public’s confidence in our elections.

Even if someone disagrees with the way elections are administered, this approach is neither helpful nor productive. It is dangerous and irresponsible.

The people of Ohio, and the nation, deserve better.

I am proud of the work we have done and confident we have made every effort to encourage every eligible Ohioan to be a registered – and active – voter. But election officials can’t do it alone. Every voter has a responsibility to make sure their information is current and that they remain active participants in our democracy.

Jon Husted is the 53rd and current Ohio Secretary of State, a position he has held since January 2011. On November 6, 2018, Ohio voters elected Husted the state’s next lieutenant governor — a four-year term that begins in January 2019. Follow him on Twitter @JonHusted.