Legislation proposed to stop unfair voter purges

Congresswoman Joyce Beatty (OH-03) introduced the Save Voters Act, legislation that would prohibit states from using questionable purge tactics to take tens of thousands of eligible voters off the voting rolls.

In August 2020, Ohio’s Republican secretary of state, Frank LaRose, released a list of 115,816 people who were set to be purged after the November election because the officials in each of the Buckeye State’s 88 counties marked them as inactive.

“The right to vote is not a ‘use-it or lose-it’ proposition. Rather, voting is a permanent guarantee that is the very lifeblood of our nation,” said Beatty, who leads the Congressional Black Caucus. “To sit back and allow that right to be restricted or removed over something as minor as failing to respond to a postcard is unthinkable, especially when it is particularly harmful for communities of color, veterans, and vulnerable populations.”

“As the Representative of Ohio’s Third Congressional District and Congressional Black Caucus Chair, I will continue to do everything in my power toward making it easier—not harder—for people to vote,” Beatty said.

“Some states try to tailor the electorate to achieve their preferred political outcomes by purging voters from the rolls for flimsy reasons,” said Lisa McCormick, a progressive activist in New Jersey. “State election officials have an obligation to keep voter registration records up to date, but purging people from the rolls because they skipped voting seems unconstitutional.”

“It is well established, under the Constitution and federal law, that American voters have a right to choose not to vote and not to be penalized for doing so,” said McCormick. “Given the state of our technology, Americans should have a fair and easy way to insure that every citizen has a right to vote, but unfortunately, Republicans are working overtime to restrict and remove our right to vote.”

“There simply is no justification for also using voter inactivity as an independent basis for eliminating registrations,” said McCormick. “But states like Ohio and Georgia are not really canceling registrations of voters simply because they have not voted, they are robbing the right to vote from people who they expect to vote for new leadership.”

“After record levels of voter turnout during a global pandemic, it’s appalling that Republicans are trying to make voting harder, especially for many Black and brown voters,” Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause, said. “Americans who chose not to vote during the pandemic should not be potentially purged from the voter rolls, and we commend Congresswoman Beatty for introducing the Save Voters Act to help protect the voices of all eligible voters.”

Specifically, the Save Voters Act would bar states from purging potential voters based on their failure to vote or respond to a written notice, unless the notice is returned as undeliverable.

The bill also requires that a state must inform a voter when they are removed from the rolls and include the reason for removal and information on how to contest removal or be reinstated.

States would also need to disseminate a public notice within 48 hours of conducting any general program to remove names from the official list of eligible voters, informing the public that list maintenance is taking place and that registrants should check their voter status.


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