Ohio elections chief makes changes to keep voters on rolls

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio's elections chief said Monday that he is making extra efforts to help Ohio voters remain registered after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the state's stringent practices for removing inactive voters from rolls.

Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted's initiatives were included in instructions issued to county boards of elections following the high court's June ruling.

Husted directed boards to send an additional reminder to voters 30 to 45 days before they are set to be removed from the rolls. He also made activity at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles count as voter activity under maintenance, as long as the person uses the same address as the one that appears on his or her voter registration.

Husted also is updating his website, MyOhioVote.com, so that voters can easily see the confirmation status of their registration, said spokesman Sam Rossi.

"We want to ensure that people who are registered to vote have the information necessary to go to the ballot box and exercise that right," Rossi said. "What this does is give people more opportunities to remain on the voter rolls even if they are not voting."

Husted, a candidate for lieutenant governor, had already instructed boards not to cancel any registrations before November's election. However, a process that flags inactive voters for future removal is resuming. It has been carried out by both Democratic and Republican secretaries of state for more than two decades, but the suit was not filed until 2016.

Ohio's contested voter purge stemmed from a requirement in federal law that states must make an effort to keep their voter rolls in good shape by removing people who have moved or died.

But Ohio pursued its goal more aggressively than most other states, relying on two things: voter inactivity over six years encompassing three federal elections; and the failure to return a card, sent after the first missed election cycle, asking people to confirm that they have not moved and continue to be eligible to vote.

Voters who return the card or show up to vote over the next four years after they receive it remain registered. If they do nothing, their names eventually fall off the list of registered voters.

Jen Miller, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Ohio, called Husted's directives "a step in the right direction." She said the organization will continue to monitor implementation of the instructions as they're carried out.

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