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As Ohio Purges Voter Rolls, Oregon Is Going In The Other Direction

<p>The law upheld by a 5-4 court opinion allows Ohio officials to take voters off the rolls if they don&rsquo;t vote or respond to notices <a href="http://www.dispatch.com/news/20180611/ohios-voter-purge-system-upheld-by-us-supreme-court" target="_blank">for a total of six years</a>.</p>

Matt Brown

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The law upheld by a 5-4 court opinion allows Ohio officials to take voters off the rolls if they don’t vote or respond to notices for a total of six years.

Secretary of State Dennis Richardson has no interest in following Ohio’s lead.

In the wake of news Monday that the U.S. Supreme Court had upheld Ohio officials’ policy of aggressively taking “inactive” voters from the state’s voter rolls, Richardson announced he’ll continue taking Oregon in the opposite direction. He’s even got a bill in mind.

“Despite today’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, Oregon remains a national leader in protecting voting rights,” Richardson said in a statement. “In Oregon, we believe that a registered voter should not lose their voting rights solely because they haven’t participated recently.”

The law upheld by a 5-4 court opinion allows Ohio officials to take voters off the rolls if they don’t vote or respond to notices for a total of six years.

It’s considered one of the stricter laws in the nation, but it’s not unique. Until last year, Oregon policies allowed voters to be labeled “inactive” if they didn’t update their voter registrations or vote in at least five years.

Richardson changed that rule. In one of his first acts as secretary of state, he announced he’d be taking voters off the rolls after 10 years of inactivity — not five.

Richardson has estimated it would affect roughly 60,000 voters. And in a sign that the Republican wasn’t just playing politics, an analysis suggested more Democrats than Republicans would be helped by the change.

Now Richardson wants to go a step further. In his release Monday, he announced he’ll push legislation in next year’s legislative session “to protect voters from ever being moved to inactive status for non-participation.”

 

Copyright 2018 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Dirk VanderHart is JPR's Salem correspondent reporting from the Oregon State Capitol. His reporting is funded through a collaboration between public radio stations around the Northwest called the Northwest News Network.