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Voter roll purge won't happen in Minnesota

The Ohio-style purging of names from voter registration rolls won't happen in Minnesota, and our state's same-day registration shields voters who may be accidentally dropped.

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Minnesota voters needn't worry about having their names purged from voter registration rolls, even if the nation's highest court says it's OK.

Even if someone accidentally removes your name from the rolls, you can restore it at your polling place, thanks to the state's same-day registration law.

"I think it’s a sad day for Ohio, and other states like Ohio," Minn. Secretary of State Steve Simon told KARE.

"Fortunately, we’re insulated from that in Minnesota -- Minnesota has same-day registration so we’re not subject to the law that is at issue in this case."

The United States Supreme Court ruled Monday, by a five-to-four margin, that elections officials in Ohio have the power to purge voter rolls of the names of voters who've missed two straight general elections, if they're notified.

Simon said that registered voters who skip elections for four straight years stay on the rolls, but are classified as "inactive" voters. But that can easily be remedied on or before Election Day.

The lawsuit challenging the Ohio voter roll purging system was brought by voters who never received the notification, or confused it with junk mail. They were surprised to learn they weren't registered, and by then the registration deadline had passed.

Minnesotans, by contrast, can and do register on Election Day.

"We've had same day registration for over 40 years. In Ohio, and still in most states, that’s not the case," Simon explained.

"So, the stakes in those states are very high. Hundreds of thousands of voters, maybe more, could be effectively shut out of elections, without their knowledge that are removed, or purged from the voter rolls."

Minnesota is also is part of a secure system that allows elections officials to compare notes, and discover if a voter has moved and may be simultaneously registered in two states.

If you want to check to see if you're still registered to vote, there's an easy online tool for that, Secretary of State's MnVotes website.

The dissenting voices on the court, including Justice Stephen Breyer, argued that Ohio's need to clear names of inactive voters -- labeled by supporters as "bloated rolls" -- is outweighed by the risk of disenfranchising voters.

Annastacia Belladonna-Carrera of Common Cause Minnesota said there are many legitimate reasons registered voters miss elections, and they shouldn't be barred from returning to the polls after a lapse.

"There could be a variety of reasons why I don’t vote in two general elections. I could be ill and unable to get there," Belladona-Carrera explained.

"We’re looking at hourly wage workers, we’re looking at those who have no vehicles, and may live in areas that have limited transportation. We’re looking at a variety of individuals that fall prey to this use-it-or-lose-it system in Ohio.

The High Court's decision applies to Ohio and six other states with similar systems -- Pennsylvania, Georgia, Oregon, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Montana.

Belladona-Carrera says she worried the ruling will be used by lawmakers in more states to adopt the Ohio system.

"The Supreme court now has essentially created a blueprint, for other state and other special interest groups that might be interested in disenfranchising, or using other tactics, to keep certain folks from the ballot."

She urged voters to keep the toll-free phone number 1-866-OUR-VOTE (or 1-866-687-8683) -- the Voter Protection Hotline -- with them as a resource in case someone at a polling place tries to deny them access.

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