Election board finds no merit in voter registration challenge

Doug Rogers

A written challenge against 62 voter registrations proved unsuccessful Monday afternoon. That’s after the Portage County Board of Elections dismissed the complaint on grounds election laws addressed the challenger’s concerns.

Sorting through the Challenges with the Portage County Board of Elections

From the start, 19 challenges were quickly dismissed.

  • The Board of Elections upheld eight voter registrations targeted because the Kent State students did not use the area desk name on their voter registrations. While it is preferred, adding the detail is not required.
  • Six other incomplete addresses complaints were rejected because students are not required to use their dorm room number in their address.
  • Nursing home residents also do not need to disclose their unit number, leading to the dismissal of three more challenges.
  • Another incomplete address complaint mistaken the home of an alleged student as a residence hall, which was actually an apartment complex.
  • Another voter under scrutiny lives and votes in another county within the state.

    The rest of voter registrations were sorted into five groups recommended for a hearing.

  • 18 registrations examined because the voter no longer lives at the address have entered confirmation status because they have not voted in a four-year period. Their voter registrations are in danger of expiring. The registrations were already at this stage before the challenge, meaning the situation is already under control. If they do appear at the polls to vote, they would be asked to provide additional information and ID to confirm their current address is part of the voting precinct. Otherwise, these voters would be given a provisional ballot that would be taken into account during the election once their voter registration information is confirmed.
  • 15 registrations have entered confirmation status as part of a statewide effort to purge inactive voter registrations. This happens during the odd years surrounding general elections. It’s part of an order from the Ohio Secretary of State. The registrations are in danger of being removed because election mail has bounced back.
  • Four of the voters whose registration is in question are flagged for issues requiring extra scrutiny. They would be asked to cast provisional ballots. Once their registrations are verified, the voters would no longer be under scrutiny.
  • Another four registrations are questioned because the voters are deceased. Two have already entered confirmation status.
  • Two active voters were also part of the challenge, but neither registration created any concern. If they show up to the polls in November, they would be allowed to cast their ballots as normal.

Student voters were among those quickly dismissed from the challenge. Some of their voter registrations were among 17 under scrutiny for incomplete addresses. Failing to include the area desk name or dorm room numbers in the address for students living on-campus is not grounds to dismiss their voter applications. Registrations in question include both Kent State and Hiram College students. Nursing home residents who do not include their unit number also are dismissed from the challenge.

A Ravenna woman filed the challenge August 31st on behalf of the Ohio Voter Integrity Project. The documents address Portage county voter registrations marked active in voter registration database. The challenger did not wish to discuss the situation and referred us to a spokesperson for the organization.

Notices of the hearing were mailed to all 62 voters whose registrations are in question, but none were present for today’s hearing. The notices were mailed to them six days in advance.

The original complaint includes:

  • “18 challenges of voters whose addresses are incomplete.”
  • “4 challenges of voters who are deceased.”
  • “40 challenges of voters who moved and are no longer living at the voter registration address as their permanent residence.”

Additionally, 33 voter registration challenges are not valid because the voters have already been placed in confirmation status. Their voter registrations are in danger of expiring and being purged. The registrations were already at this stage before the challenge, meaning the situation is already under control.

“The people who were challenged here today were challenged by already having been put on confirmation or provisional status,” says Board of Elections Chairman Craig Stephens.

The challenge against the registrations of four deceased voters is not valid, either. Two of the voters have registrations marked under confirmation status. The Board of Elections cannot delete their registrations until Ohio Vital Statistics notifies the board of the voter’s death during a regular update or it receives notification the person has died in another state.

Two active voters no longer have to worry about their registrations due to a lack of evidence.

While none of the voting registrations were threatened by the challenge, the Board of Elections reminded the people in attendance the seriousness of carefully reviewing the registrations to preserve the democratic process.

“It’s the Ground Zero of protecting someone’s right to vote,” says Stephens.

He says these challenges help eliminate voter fraud and the hassle of showing ID at the polls ensures registered voters are entitled to the opportunity to cast a ballot.

Contact Doug Rogers at [email protected].