Recent data show slight improvements in several Ohio counties highlighted for having more registered voters than voting-age residents in a lawsuit filed by two conservative groups. With voter rolls in many Ohio counties exceeding the national average to a suspect degree, Judicial Watch and True the Vote requested that a federal court compel Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, to work towards more accurate voter lists in compliance with the Clinton-era National Voter Registration Act (NVRA).
Judicial Watch determined that the number of voter registrations in Auglaize County and Wood County exceeded 105 percent of each county’s voting-age population, based on 2010 Census counts and secretary of state data from the November 2010 election. In Morrow County, the number of registered voters exceeded 100 percent of the voting-age population.
A Media Trackers analysis using updated registration numbers and Census estimates suggests that Auglaize and Morrow counties have made tentative steps toward NVRA compliance since 2010. Click any of the following images to see a chart in a separate browser window.
Based on Census population estimates and voter registration records, Auglaize County and Morrow County now have registered voter totals below the number of voting-age residents. All three counties have registration rates that are still far higher than the national average.
In February 2012, Husted’s analysis showed that Auglaize County’s voter rolls equaled roughly 90 percent of the county’s voting-age population. In September, that figure ticked up slightly, as Auglaize County now has an estimated 91 percent registration rate.
Morrow County, which officially reported a 101 percent voter registration rate in February 2012, removed 1,435 voters from its rolls in the past few months. The latest Census estimates suggest the rural northern Ohio county has a voting-age population of 26,072. Calculations show that Morrow County’s voter registration rate was as high as 99.8 percent in February, but fell to an estimated 94 percent this month.
The voter rolls in Wood County, which had a 105 percent registration rate in February, actually continued to increase in recent months. The latest figures show Wood County voter registrations total 106 percent of the county’s voting-age population. The start of classes at Bowling Green State University – and the subsequent voter registration drives aimed at the student population – has likely contributed to the disconnect between residents and registered voters.
In February 2012, the Secretary of State’s office calculated that a plurality of Ohio counties had voter rolls containing a number of names equal to or greater than 90 percent of the voting age population in the county. Nationally, 71 percent of eligible voters were registered to vote as of the 2008 presidential election.
Judicial Watch has argued that numbers far in excess of the national average – and certainly numbers in excess of the eligible population – are proof the NVRA’s requirements have not been met in Ohio.
In an interview with Media Trackers, Husted spokeswoman Alexis Zoldan stressed that “the voter rolls are in the best shape they have been in in years,” adding that the secretary of state has removed “hundreds of thousands of duplicate” registrations and “about 150,000 deceased voters” from Ohio’s voters rolls.
A Judicial Watch press release summarizing the pending lawsuit explained that Husted’s office replied to a February 2012 inquiry with a letter that “pointed to a directive issued on April 18, 2011, to remove ineligible voters from the list due to change of address, but failed to mention a single initiative undertaken to comply with the directive.”
In June 2011, the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections reviewed its voter rolls in order to comply with Husted’s directive. The county purged more than 100,000 inactive voters – over ten percent of all voter registrations – from the rolls, which had not been consistently maintained. According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, “there hasn’t been an accurate count of valid registered voters for years.”
Zoldan also noted that Husted is still awaiting an answer from U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder regarding what Husted described as ”inconsistent statutory requirements” for removing inaccurate registrations from the state’s voting lists.