It's Time To End Shameful Voter Purges and Hold Those Attacking Voting Rights Accountable

Ohio is making national news for all the wrong reasons (again) this week, as the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday over Ohio Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted’s aggressive purging of millions of eligible Ohio voters from the rolls.

Purging lawfully registered voters does nothing to stop voting fraud -- which is virtually non-existent in Ohio as Husted himself has admitted. There are far better ways to identify voters who have left the state or passed away. Husted’s purging of 2 million voters has only made it harder for Ohioans to vote and leads to long lines and confusion on Election Day.

Republicans know what they're doing with voter purges and strict voter ID laws. Analyses have revealed that the purging process has made it harder to vote for certain kinds of citizens -- seniors, veterans, people of color, college students. Not coincidentally, many of these groups also happen to vote overwhelmingly for Democrats.

Democrats believe our democracy works better when more people participate. We've never solved a problem with less democracy. Republicans want fewer people to vote. They want to make it harder to vote, and that's what's happening with these voter purges.

With the Supreme Court debating this issue this week, we Ohio Democrats have been highlighting how voter purging has impacted one Ohioan -- veteran Joe Helle, who served our country in Iraq and Afghanistan and returned from that service only to discover his right to vote had been taken away.

Helle confronted Husted outside the U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday morning and instead of acknowledging the grave injustice inflicted upon this veteran, Husted literally turned his back and walked away. Typical.

Laws and policies that take away the right to vote from our servicemen and women and make it harder for certain groups to vote are undemocratic and un-American and violate the law. In 2016 the Ohio Democratic Party filed an amicus brief in this case, and we pledge to keep up the fight to protect every citizen's sacred and fundamental right to vote.

But these laws also create another cost, with Ohio taxpayers being forced to foot the bill for this lawsuit and others lost by Husted and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. They lost when they tried to disenfranchise young voters, and they lost repeatedly when they tried to roll back early voting earlier this decade. The cost of their losses is already in the millions.

In any other realm but politics, Husted and his lawyer DeWine would no longer have a job after such a costly losing streak. But here we are, and now DeWine has picked Husted as his running mate as they both seek promotions.

Protecting our elections means fighting to make sure every eligible Ohioan has the right to vote and every vote is counted accurately. It doesn’t mean purging our servicemen and women from the voter rolls while they are overseas and turning our backs on them when they come home.

It means being a champion for democracy and clearing roadblocks to the ballot box, not undermining democracy and putting up new barriers. And it means, as Joe Helle did on the steps of the Supreme Court, holding accountable those officials who insist on attacking the voting rights of the very citizens they are supposed to represent.

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