Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted (R), one of the nation’s most notorious vote suppressors, has agreed to join an error-riddled multi-state voter purge database, through at least 2018. The move comes as part of a settlement with voter-suppression groups who sued the state to force it to remove names from its voter rolls.
The Interstate Voter Crosscheck Program aims to make sure that voters do not participate in elections in more than one state at a time. More than two dozen states submit their voter registration lists to the system and can check to make sure voters are not also registered in a different state. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R), best known for his anti-immigrant efforts, oversees the program. So far, the system has mostly been embraced by Republican officeholders concerned about the largely-mythical problem of “voter fraud.” Under Husted, Ohio had already been participating in the system, but this deal would seem to lock the state in — even if a different Secretary of State is elected this November.
But the problem is that the list relies on state lists that are not very accurate and generates a lot of errors. After Virginia joined the system, the state’s board of elections (under then-Gov. Bob McDonnell (R)) sent a list of names to local voter registrars of alleged out-of-state voters. Though the board said it had determined each of the people on the list had registered to vote in a different state since their last voting activity or registration in the Old Dominion, local registrars found that to be often not true. Chesterfield County Registrar Lawrence C. Haake III (R) found a 17 percent error rate in his preliminary review of the list. The voter registrars for the City of Chesapeake, Arlington County, and Fairfax County — three of the ten largest jurisdictions in Virginia — each estimated at least a 9 to 10 percent error rate in the lists they received. Many of the people flagged as out-of-state voters had registered to vote in Virginia more recently than in the other state — and some had moved out of state and later moved back.
The Ohio lawsuit was filed by Judicial Watch and True the Vote . Both groups have been active in fear-mongering on the “voter fraud” issue and have pushed states to take steps to make voting more difficult. Husted, who agreed to the groups’ demands in an out-of-court settlement, spent most of 2012 working to suppress Ohio voter participation by attempting to cut early voting options, supporting partisan legislative gerrymandering, and working to throw-out legally cast provisional ballots.
Ohio’s Republican-controlled legislature is currently considering legislation to make it harder still to vote in the state. Proposals include reducing the number of absentee-voting days by six, preventing newly registered voters from voting the day they register, and requiring voters to present certain types of photo identification when casting a ballot.
This post has been updated to clarify that settlement extends the state’s existing involvement through 2018.