Concerned that many voters will be excluded, Rep. Clyde questions timing
COLUMBUS - State Representative Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) submitted a public records request today to better understand Secretary of State Jon Husted's announcement last week to allow online voter registration updates.
Rep. Clyde has identified many potential flaws with the system. These flaws include the potential exclusion of thousands of voters from the system, the potential intimidation of thousands of senior citizens about their eligibility to vote, and an unfunded mandate on local boards of election less than 90 days before a major presidential election.
"I strongly support online voter registration," stated Rep. Clyde. "But this proposal only allows for online address updates, and needlessly excludes thousands of voters from participating."
Secretary of State Husted's system excludes six types of voters from the system, including those who don't have BOTH a driver's license or state ID number AND the last four digits of a Social Security Number on file with the state. This is beyond what is legally required. This potentially could exclude thousands of voters, especially college students, when students are just the type of voters likely to use an online system. Rep. Clyde's records request seeks to answer how many voters will be excluded by this and other provisions.
"I also have concerns about contacting thousands of senior voters to tell them there's a problem with their voter registration so close to an election," said Rep. Clyde. "It's confusing for voters and a lot of work for the elections officials who are busy preparing for a major election just around the corner."
See the records request below:
August 13, 2012
Secretary of State Jon Husted
180 E. Broad Street, 16th floor
Columbus, Ohio 43215
Dear Secretary Husted,
I write to request the following information and supporting records that will help me better understand the new online registration update system.
1. I know of no law authorizing change of registration address that is different than the standard process for new voter registrations. What law gives you authority to accept updated registrations online while prohibiting new registrations online? If a digital signature satisfies the law's signature requirement for updating one's registration, then a digital signature must satisfy the law's signature requirement for new registrations, too. The same law governs both.
2. The requirements for updating one's registration information are the same as for newly registering to vote. On the paper form, voters are asked to provide either the last 4 digits of their Social Security number or their driver's license or state ID number. However, your online form requires both.
a. Why is a voter required to give more information to update the voter's information online?
b. How many voters do not have one or the other of these ID numbers in their voter record and are thus denied access to the online system?
c. How many Ohio students, who may not have an Ohio driver's license or ID which is not a requirement for voting, will be excluded from the system?
3. Your directive requires the boards of election to contact all voters who do not have a digitized signature on file in the county's voter registration system. It also requires counties to contact voters without such a digitized signature by Sept. 14.
a. When did the state and counties begin digitizing signatures?
b. How many voters' registration records do not contain a digitized signature?
c. How many senior citizens or other voters are likely to be impacted by this provision?
d. I'm concerned that an intimidating mailing will be sent out to seniors before the election questioning their eligibility to participate. What will the mailing look like? I request an electronic copy of this mailing or the draft version if it is not finalized.
e. What happens if the senior fails to respond?
f. If the mailing comes back undeliverable for some reason that is not the fault of the senior, what happens then?
g. Will these letters be used to challenge seniors' eligibility to vote at some point down the road? Or worse, to take them off the rolls as eligible voters?
h. How will local boards pay for this unfunded mandated directive to contact all voters without signatures?
4. Your directive to the boards of election gives 6 reasons why one would not be permitted to use the online system. Three of the reasons involve data discrepancies that are the responsibility of the state and county to resolve. For example, if there are duplicate records in the system, if there is incorrect information in the system, or if the voter types a common word variation such as "Saint" instead of "St.", the voter will not be permitted to use the system. How many voters will be affected by the state and county's data problems and thus denied access to the online system? How many duplicate records are there? Why is the system so primitive?
5. Your directive also includes instructions for Boards to modify the files in their voter registration systems to format the digitized signatures to your specifications. It gives them until this Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2012 to do it. How many signature fields will need to be updated in such a short time frame? What kind of burden is this on the Boards of Election only 83 days before the election?
6. I request electronic copies of the database schema and data dictionary for the Statewide Voter Registration Database (SWVRD). These documents should lay out and define the data tables and fields in the SWVRD and help me understand how voter registration records are handled by your office. I also request any other SWVRD documentation that would be helpful in understanding how the processing of a voter registration happens.
Where I have requested electronic copies, I ask for searchable electronic files instead of scanned images of paper records.