COLUMBUS — After weeks of complaints by Ohio Democrats, the state’s Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose again called for reform of Ohio’s voter registration system, promoting legislation that would shift control away from the 88 counties to a consolidationunder the state.
Democrats had complained that the secretary of state’s purge of inactive voters from the voter rolls had widespread mistakes and called for the state to halt the process and allow an independent audit of the system. They said that active voters had been removed from the voter rolls in several counties during a statewide purge that was only meant to remove people who moved out of state, people who had died, or people who had not voted in any election for six years.
Rather than going forward with an independent audit, LaRose called for state lawmakers to back legislation that would centralize the voter registration system under the state and pass reforms that modernize the process.
“Ohio has  county boards of elections, sitting down at  different keyboards, querying  different databases provided by four different vendors,” LaRose said in an emailed statement to The Center Square.
“The law of averages tells you there is a probability of human error by the boards or the vendors that they rely on,” LaRose said. “That’s why I’ve been working with the state legislature to secure and modernize our voter registration systems. Accuracy and security in Ohio’s voter registration system requires a partnership between my office and the county boards of elections, and we’re committed to strengthening that partnership.”
One of the bills, S.B. 194, would put the system under the control of a re-named Board of Voting System Examiners, Maggie Sheehan, a spokesperson for LaRose, told The Center Square via email.
Sheehan said the measure would require that vendors meet statewide standards to reduce the risk of error and enhance cyber-security protections and oversight. Along with giving more efficient data to the state’s county boards of elections, she said this would reduce the risk of foreign entities trying to manipulate elections.
The other bill, S.B. 186, would require state government to automate voters’ information updates instead of forcing voters to update their information at the board of elections or on the Secretary of State’s website. Sheehan said that this would make the voter rolls more accurate and secure.
More than a month ago, Ohio House Democrats sued the secretary of state to temporarily halt the purge until an independent audit could be conducted, but a federal judge ruled against them and allowed the purge to continue. The timeline for the purge is outlined in state law, which LaRose said that he has to follow.
Jen Miller, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Ohio, told The Center Square via email that voting is a sacred right. Although they applaud LaRose for taking actions to prevent active voters from being removed from the voter rolls, she said there is still a lot of concern.
“Ohio must upgrade its registration system to ensure fairness, accuracy, and security,” Miller said. “We call for reforms such as Same Day Registration, Automatic Voter Registration, cyber-security improvements, and vetting voter registration software vendors.”
The office of Rep. Emilia Sykes, D-Akron, the leader of the House Democrats, did not respond to a request for comment from The Center Square by the time of publication.
Tyler Arnold reports on Virginia and Ohio for The Center Square. He previously worked for the Cause of Action Institute and has been published in Business Insider, USA TODAY College, National Review Online and the Washington Free Beacon.