By Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman
October 3, 2016
Sunday, October 2, 2016, the Columbus Dispatch reported that Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted refused to mail absentee ballot applications to over one million Ohio voters.
Husted refused to mail to 1,035,795 registered voters. Those left off Husted’s mailing list include 650,730 registered voters who had changed their address. Of these, 568,456 moved within the Buckeye State and are still eligible to vote. The other 82,274 moved out of state and are presumably ineligible to vote.
The key target of Husted’s deregulation scheme are the remaining 385,065 voters who are registered at their current residence but simply failed to vote in the 2012 or 2014 federal elections.
Husted has had these voters harassed by their local Boards of Elections sending them letters demanding they verify their address. Failure to do so could lead to the voters’ deregistration and has led to them not being offered an absentee ballot. Social science data shows that the crux of Democratic Party voters move more often and vote less often than Republicans. Husted’s strategy is to purge poor and minority voters from Ohio rolls.
A U.S. federal court had recently blocked Husted’s strategy of just outright mass purging minority, young and mostly Democratic voters. A recent 2-1 ruling by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals halted various Husted practices including the removal of any voter who hadn’t voted in six years in Ohio, even if they remained at the same address.
However, the ruling did not block Husted from doing an end-run by using the absentee ballot application mailing to eventually deregister voters.
Husted has never been able to explain why, in a state that requires ID at the polls to verify a voter’s address, any voter would be removed from the computerized voting rolls. There’s no logical reason other than partisan politics to purge a registered voter in a computer era.
Overall, Republican Husted has targeted 13 percent of Ohio’s registered voters for absentee ballot disenfranchisement.
Also, voters who received Husted’s absentee ballot application mailing may have noticed the specific instructions on the envelope to the post office not to forward the mail to a new address, although the post office can return it to the sender. Husted’s office has used the return of two pieces of mail intended for the same voter to the secretary of state’s office or county board of elections as a reason to purge that voter.
Husted also admitted to the Dispatch that some of his absentee ballot applications got lost in the mail. Husted, who claims to be a fiscal conservative and has in the past refused to have backup paper ballots at polling sites because of the cost, cannot seem to explain why he is mailing more than 6.5 million absentee voting applications anyway.
Husted has allowed his office and the county boards of elections, without explanation, to disable their electronic audit logs that are built into central tabulators as well as certain county ballot scanning machines.