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Cuyahoga Purges Voter Rolls!

5 July 2011 Aside Right, Breaking News, MXO News No Comment


By Teresa Chin, Plain Dealer

Posted July 5th 2011

CLEVELAND: For the first time in years, the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections will soon know just how many registered voters it should have.

The county is in the midst of its largest purge of voter records. And when it is over, Elections Director Jane Platten expects her department will have deleted more than 100,000 inactive voters — just over one-tenth of the region’s registered voting population.

Record purging has been a controversial topic for Cuyahoga County, which gained attention in 2007 for being one of several counties with more people registered to vote than people of voting age.

Platten, who was appointed elections board director that year, said the department historically had an “inconsistent practice” of updating registration records. As a result, there hasn’t been an accurate count of valid registered voters for years.

Voter registration cannot be canceled simply because a person doesn’t vote. Instead, the process is based on whether voters are able to receive mail at the address listed on their registration. Last week, nearly 200,000 notices were sent to the addresses of those who had not voted or signed a petition in the past two years. Any voter who doesn’t respond to the mailing and who remains inactive for the next four years will be removed from the registry.

A similar mailing was done in 2007, and the county received back only 80,000 of the 180,000 notices sent. The remaining 100,000 voters will be removed in September.

Voters can become inactive for a number of reasons, Platten said. People may move to a different county, die or simply choose to stop voting altogether. (Individuals who vote absentee are still considered active and are not at risk of losing their voter registration.)

On the other hand, new voters are regularly being added to the rolls as people move into the county and local teenagers turn 18.

“The number of voters is constantly in a state of flux, so we had to put a better tracking system in place,” Platten said. “It’s important to keep our records updated, because sending voter information costs the county a tremendous amount of time, money and resources.”

Since 2007, the Cuyahoga elections board has ramped up its efforts to update voter registration, including mailing update notices every two years to identify inactive voters.

This is not the first voter registration purge for Cuyahoga County. In 2009, it conducted a smaller effort, based on death records and comparison databases with other counties, which eliminated about 59,000 voter registrations. But the voter registration rate for the county, the number of registered voters compared to the number of people of voting age, remains suspiciously high — nearly 99 percent.

“The ideal situation would be if people contacted us when they know they’re moving out of the county and wrote a note asking to be removed from the registry,” Platten said. In the meantime, her department will continue sending mailings, checking death records and duplicate registrations with other Ohio counties and, when necessary, purging records.

Although she doesn’t know if state registration policy will change in the future, Platten says the county’s election board is ready for anything.

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