NEW YORK, NY—Today, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted filed his opening brief in Husted v. Ohio A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI)—a case that will be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in its upcoming term. The case addresses Ohio’s Supplemental Process, a practice that targets voters who fail to vote in a two-year period for eventual cancellation of their registrations – even if they have not moved and are still fully eligible to vote.
In early 2016, Dēmos and the ACLU of Ohio filed a lawsuit on behalf of APRI, the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (NEOCH), and Ohio resident Larry Harmon challenging Ohio’s Supplemental Process. In response to today’s filing, Dēmos, and the ACLU released the following statements:
Brenda Wright, Vice President, Policy & Legal Strategies at Dēmos, released the following statement: “The freedom to vote is a precious right that we must fiercely protect. Ohio’s voter purge process has improperly removed countless eligible Ohioans from the voter rolls, presenting a real and present threat to our democracy. Ohio’s practice of targeting voters for removal simply because they have voted infrequently is a direct violation of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA). The Supreme Court must confirm Congress’ guidance under the NVRA and strike down Ohio’s illegal purge process. At a time when some 50 million eligible citizens are not registered to vote, we need to focus on protecting the right of eligible persons to register and vote instead of throwing eligible people off the rolls as Ohio has done.”
Mike Brickner, Senior Policy Director, ACLU of Ohio, released the following statement: “As a result of our successful litigation, over 7,500 eligible voters were able to cast their ballot in the November 2016 presidential election who would have otherwise been turned away. However, countless more votes are on the line if Secretary Husted’s voter purge program is allowed to continue to remove eligible voters from the rolls. Our right to vote is sacred and should not be a ‘use it or lose it’ freedom, but that is exactly how Secretary Husted’s illegal voter purge works as people who vote infrequently run the risk of being removed from the rolls, in violation of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA). The U.S. Supreme Court must strike down Ohio’s illegal voter purge scheme, and ensure that eligible voters will not wrongfully be removed from the rolls.”
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 the voters 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 APRI, NEOCH, and Mr. 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 in September 2016 and struck down Ohio’s controversial purge of infrequent voters from its voter rolls, finding that Ohio’s Supplemental Process violates the NVRA.
Based on the Sixth Circuit’s ruling, the federal district court entered an injunction for the November 2016 presidential election to protect the voting rights of persons affected by Ohio’s unlawful purge process. More than 7,500 eligible Ohio voters were able to cast a ballot and have it counted because of the court’s order. 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 acted to invalidate Ohio’s improper practices.
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.