Every year, Ohio officials scrub an untold number of names from state voter rolls under an aggressive and, some argue, unconstitutional policy that purges people who fail to vote in consecutive elections.
Joe Helle, the Democratic mayor of Oak Harbor, a small village near Lake Erie, says he was once among the disenfranchised. On Wednesday, in a dramatic exchange at the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court, he confronted the man he says was ultimately responsible for twice barring him from casting ballots.
The moment was more than six years in the making. In 2011, Helle, an Army veteran, returned home from tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and tried to vote in a local election, only to be told that poll workers couldn’t find his name. A couple months later, in the general election, he was blocked again. This time, board of elections officials revealed he had been removed from the state’s roll due to “inactivity.”
“I started crying,” Helle told The Washington Post. “To come home after defending that fundamental right and to be told that I couldn’t exercise it, that was heartbreaking.”
Ohio’s voter registration rules are some of the country’s most punitive. Voters who fail to cast ballots for two years, and then fail to confirm their address, are purged from the rolls.
Since 2011, the practice has been overseen by Secretary of…