More than 2,000 people could be removed from Licking County voter rolls

Gun Rights

The Licking County Board of Elections has sent letters to 2,185 registered voters telling them that if they don’t take action before mid-July, they will be removed from the Statewide Voter Registration Database.

If removed, they would be ineligible to vote here in the Nov. 5 presidential election unless they re-register before Oct. 7, Brian Mead, director of the Licking County Board of Elections, said after a county elections board meeting in Newark on June 10.

“A lot of people think that when they change addresses they have registered,” Mead told the board in explaining that the nearly 2,200 people are among 158,857 inactive voters on a list of registrations eligible for removal that Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose published earlier this month.

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LaRose said in a news release that “these registrations are eligible for removal under the law because records show they’re no longer residing or active at the registered address for at least the last four consecutive years” — a process that has been challenged unsuccessfully in the courts, including one that went to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2018.

In a related matter, the three Licking County Elections Board members in attendance Monday — Chairman Freddie Latella, and Kaye Hartman and Dave Rhodes — gave the OK for the second time this year for Mead and Deputy Director Tess Wigginton and their staff to work with a citizens’ group called Election Integrity Network, who offered their assistance in February and again last week. Board member Shai Park was absent from June 10’s meeting.

Vicki McKinney, an Ohio Election Integrity Network board member from Johnstown and a member of the group’s Licking County Task Force, spoke during the meeting and submitted a memo to the board saying, “The Task Force’s goal is to help your office lighten your workload regarding voter roll cleanup.”

McKinney said the Ohio Election Integrity Network has a five-member state board and 500 network members working in 57 of Ohio’s 88 counties.

The Election Integrity Network is led nationally by Cleta Mitchell, an election attorney who, after former President Donald Trump’s loss to Joe Biden in 2020, was part of a legal team in Georgia that sought to reverse the 2020 election results there and across the country. She was on the phone call when Trump asked the Georgia secretary of state to “find 11,780 votes” he would need to give him a win in that state.

The national organization’s website describes Mitchell as having “served as outside counsel to the (National Republican Congressional Committee), the (National Republican Senatorial Committee), the National Rifle Association, and dozens of GOP members of the House and Senate, as well as many local and state Republican party committees. In 2020, she served as a volunteer attorney for the Trump legal team in Georgia.”

In a speech carried by C-SPAN on June 6, 2023, Mitchell said Election Integrity Network volunteers are “literally thousands of Americans who are beginning to become involved in the election process.”

Mitchell, a senior fellow at the Conservative Partnership Institute, told a gathering of conservative women that she spent an hour every Wednesday with 120 to 160 people who wanted to know more about “cleaning voter rolls.”

“It inspires me to the point I can hardly talk about it without crying, because these people are patriots,” Mitchell said during the recorded speech. “They’re doing this because they love this country and they know that if we are going to save our country from all of the crazy, socialist leftists, we have to save the elections system.”

Under Ohio law, elections officials are required to routinely review voter registrations, and they have for years, by going through a detailed process of notifying inactive voters before they are removed from the rolls.

McKinney said in an interview after the meeting that the Ohio Election Integrity Network is independent from the national group and that she has never met or spoken with Mitchell.

“We do not endorse any candidates; we do not endorse any issues,” McKinney said. “You won’t see anything for Trump from us, for example. … Our goal is to help the board of elections. It’s not an ‘us versus them’ thing.”

She said the Ohio group uses material from the national website, such as a handbook called the “Virginia Model.” It was developed by the Virginia Institute for Public Policy, which formed the Virginia Fair Elections Coalition as a beta site for the national Election Integrity Network, according to the Citizens Guide that the Ohio group also uses.

McKinney and Sue Mazzarini of northern Fairfield County, head of the Licking County Task Force of the Election Integrity Network, on June 10 offered the Licking County Board of Elections its latest findings using a software program called EagleAI NETwork to compare Licking County voter rolls with data from those other states to find potential duplicates.

According to numerous national news stories — including those by USA Today, NBC News, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution — some elections officials and others have criticized the use of EagleAI, saying it is unreliable because they said it pulls in data from disparate sources of varying quality beyond voter registration data, including change-of-address and business records, property records and prison records to look for possible duplicate voting records.

Mazzarini said she is “a trust but verify kind of person” and that the Ohio group has independently verified its data with each state’s voter registration website. And McKinney added later that the suspected duplicate registrations they provide to the elections board do not come with party affiliation attached.

“We don’t know what party they belong to,” she said.

Their latest analysis suggests 292 duplicates in the data they most recently surveyed, and that Florida and Tennessee had the highest number of duplicates with Licking County at 56 each; followed by Georgia, 49; Pennsylvania, 45; North Carolina, 44; Texas, 26; Ohio, 9; and Illinois, 7.

They also said their findings indicate that a total of 97 voters in five of those states – Florida (21), Georgia (37), Texas (6), North Carolina (26) and Ohio (7) – voted in both states in which they were registered. But Mazzarini was quick to point out that they “did not find anyone voting in the same election in both states, which is a good thing.”

That means that, based on their analysis, those voters might have voted in a primary in one state and the general election in the other state.

Wigginton, deputy director of the Licking County elections board, said that’s against the law, and those people need to pick one and vote only in that state, which director Mead said should be the one on their drivers license.

Wigginton and Mead both said they have had no issues with the information provided by the Ohio Election Integrity Network or their request that the elections board send letters to the people on the lists of possible duplicate registrations.

Earlier this year, Mead said, the board sent letters to 250 people and 77 of them sent back forms requesting that their registration be removed from the voter rolls in Licking County.

“I won’t remove someone unless they sign a form and its signature matches the one we have on file,” he said.

Wigginton said she had “a little hesitation when they approached us, knowing who the national leader is, but when they explained what they wanted to do, I felt comfortable.”

She said they have not asked the board to do anything outside of the scope of their responsibilities, and if they did so in the future, “that would be the time to consider severing the relationship.”

To date, she said, the group has provided information that the board didn’t have, and it has helped the board in its duty to keep the rolls up to date.

Currently, Licking County has 127,109 registered voters. Mead said about 95,000 voted in the last presidential election. He anticipates that, because of population growth in the county, about 102,000 to 105,000 county residents will vote this fall.

If you want to see if you or someone you know is on the list of 158,857 inactive voters eligible to be removed from the voter rolls, you can search by name on the Ohio secretary of state’s website: https://registrationreadiness.ohiosos.gov/#. Anyone who finds their name on the list and wants to avoid having their registration purged should contact the county board of elections before July 22.

Anyone who wants to register for the November election, including those purged from the rolls, will need to do that by Oct. 7.

The Licking County Elections Board’s next scheduled meeting is set for 11:30 a.m. on Aug. 5.

Alan Miller writes for TheReportingProject.org, the nonprofit news organization of Denison University’s Journalism program, which is funded by the Mellon Foundation and donations from readers.

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