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Protect Us From Voter Purges

Richard Trumka
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Imagine this: It's Sunday morning and you walk into the church you grew up attending. You have not been to service in a few years. For most of that time, you worked the night shift as an emergency-room nurse and the occasional weekends you had off were filled with sick children, aging parents and digging out from snowstorms. But you are there now. The usher asks your name and when you answer, he frowns and says "I'm so sorry, since you haven't exercised your religious freedom in the last six years, I'll have to ask you to leave."

Outlandish and outrageous as this scenario may sound, it is precisely what Ohio is doing with respect to its citizens' exercise of another fundamental right – the right to vote. Ohio uses a procedure that removes voters from the registration rolls because they have not voted in recent years. The process is based on the faulty assumption that if a voter does not make it to the polls in consecutive elections, they must have moved and are no longer eligible to vote in the jurisdiction. Voters who find themselves caught in the purge may be turned away from their local polling place and, because Ohio lacks options for registering at the polls, without any opportunity to participate in that election.

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