Ohio Elections Chief Launches New Idle Voter Purge Process

Ohio Elections Chief Frank LaRose, right, talks about his desire for a new, 10-year map of the state's legislative districts at a meeting of the Ohio Redistricting Commission on Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021 in Columbus, Ohio, as fellow commission member Rep. Emilia Sykes of Akron, the top House Democrat, listens to his statement. LaRose, a Republican, this week launched a new effort to purge inactive voters from state rolls. (AP Photo/Andrew Welsh-Huggins)
Ohio Elections Chief Frank LaRose, right, talks about his desire for a new, 10-year map of the state's legislative districts at a meeting of the Ohio Redistricting Commission on Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021 in Columbus, Ohio, as fellow commission member Rep. Emilia Sykes of Akron, the top House Democrat, listens to his statement. LaRose, a Republican, this week launched a new effort to purge inactive voters from state rolls. (AP Photo/Andrew Welsh-Huggins)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio's elections chief this week launched an effort to purge inactive voters from state rolls, while using the announcement to push for passage of a bill making several changes to the state's election process.

The four-year process for purging inactive voters targets those who have not voted for two years, and whose addresses may have changed and whose voter registration must be updated to reflect the move, according to Wednesday's directive by GOP Secretary of State Frank LaRose to Ohio's 88 county elections boards.

Inactive voters can keep themselves on the rolls by voting in any election in the next four years, submitting an absentee ballot application, registering to vote or taking other election-related steps.

Earlier this year, LaRose said 97,795 inactive voter files were removed in scheduled post-2020 election voter roll maintenance, a lower number than predicted after thousands of voters avoided the purge by voting and undertaking other election activities. Ohio has more than 8 million registered voters.

In his announcement Wednesday, LaRose also urged for the passage of a Republican voting bill introduced this spring, which he called a “vital modernization.”

The bill prohibits the placement of ballot drop boxes anywhere but at local elections offices, eliminates a day of early voting, shortens the window for requesting mail-in ballots and tightens voter ID requirements.

The bill also would add some election conveniences, including an online absentee ballot request system long sought by voting rights advocates and automated voter registration through the Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

Democrats criticize the measure as voter suppression. Bill sponsor Rep. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican, has called it an effort to incorporate changes long sought by Democrats, Republicans, election officials and voter advocates.