Former Pennsylvania legislator Goebel curious about 'inactive voter' status

| Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012, 12:02 a.m.

A former state legislator said he was improperly declared an inactive voter by Butler County election officials, an action which he regarded as an attempt to purge independents from voting rolls before the Nov. 6 presidential election.

“Absolutely not. Absolutely not,” said Butler County Bureau of Elections Director Shari Brewer. “Regardless of someone's party, if we get returned mail, they get one of those letters” naming them as an inactive voter.

Ronald Goebel, a registered independent, claimed that the letter was the first step in “eliminating independents that vote Democratic.”

State records show more than 113,000 active voters in Butler County, including independents and members of all political parties, and more than 8,700 inactive voters.

Goebel, 76, of Cranberry was a state representative from 1977 to 1980 for the 29th Legislative District covering Ross, West View and surrounding communities.

A voter can be put on “inactive” status is if he or she has not voted in five years. Election bureaus send out letters asking if the voter is still at the listed address. If the voter does not respond, the voter is placed on “inactive” status.

Federal and state laws require keeping an “inactive voter” on the registration list until he or she has not voted in two consecutive general elections for federal office after the date of the notice. Afterward, the name can be purged.

Brewer said that the Postal Service returned one of two postcards sent to Goebel notifying him of a poll change for an August special election.

Goebel said he got both postcards.

On Sept. 27, Goebel got a form letter from Brewer's office saying that he was marked inactive.

Brewer said she's talked to Goebel and once he returns the form letter verifying his address, he'll be declared active again. She said she couldn't say how many inactive letters the office sends out.

The Pennsylvania Department of State said Wednesday they hadn't heard of complaints similar to Goebel's.

Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or

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