New York, NY—In response to the Department of Justice filing an amicus in support of Ohio’s Supplemental Process, Brenda Wright Vice President, Policy & Legal Strategies at Demos released the following statement:
“Since the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 was first enacted, the Department of Justice has consistently held the position that voter purge practices like Ohio’s—which target voters for removal from the rolls for no reason other than the fact that the voter has failed to vote—violates federal law. The Office of the Solicitor General itself approved the filing of a brief confirming this longstanding view of the NVRA just last summer, when the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit was considering our challenge to Ohio’s voter purge practices.
“Yesterday, the Department of Justice abandoned this principled position that it has held for decades through three presidencies. By reversing course and choosing to stand with Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted and his practice of purging countless eligible Ohioans from the rosters, the DOJ has confirmed many peoples’ worst fears that it will no longer work to protect and expand the right to vote, but instead undermine it.
“Policies such as Ohio’s Supplemental Process are a direct threat to the fundamental rights of Americans and one more step toward dismantling our democracy. I am disappointed but not surprised at this move by the Sessions DOJ, whose job is to seek justice for the American people, not to create barriers to the right to vote. Too many people have fought and died for this right and we cannot sit idly by while states and the current administration work to erode the foundation of American democracy.”
Ohio has a practice of targeting voters who fail to vote in a two-year period for eventual removal from the voter roll – even if they have not moved and are still fully eligible to vote. This practice, known as the Supplemental Process, resulted in the removal of thousands of Ohioans from the voter rolls in 2015 alone.
After a lawsuit was brought by the Ohio A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI), the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (NEOCH), and Ohio resident Larry Harmon challenging the Supplemental Process, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and struck down Ohio’s controversial purge of infrequent voters from its voter rolls. In September 2016, the Sixth Circuit found that the Supplemental Process violates the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA) by removing voters from the voter registration rolls merely because of their failure to vote.
As a result of the Sixth Circuit’s ruling, the federal district court entered an injunction for the November 2016 presidential election that ultimately allowed more than 7,500 Ohio voters to cast a ballot. All of these were eligible voters who would have been denied their right to vote under Ohio’s unlawful process, if the Sixth Circuit had not enjoined Ohio’s improper practices.
About the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA):
The NVRA, passed in 1993 to increase participation in the electoral process, requires states to maintain accurate and up-to-date voter rolls, while also protecting voters from improper removal. The law allows states to remove a voter’s name from the rolls only if the voter has become ineligible and if the state uses safeguards to ensure that voters are not erroneously purged; it specifically prohibits states from removing voters for not voting.