NEW YORK, NY—Today, the United States Supreme Court granted Ohio’s petition for certiorari in the case of Husted v. Ohio A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI). The case addresses Ohio’s Supplemental Process, a practice of targeting 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, Demos 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 the Supreme Court’s decision, Dēmos, ACLU of Ohio, APRI, and NEOCH released the following statements:
Brenda Wright, Vice President, Policy & Legal Strategies at Demos, released the following statement: “Ohio’s practice of purging infrequent voters from the rolls has prevented countless eligible Ohioans from casting their votes and making their voices heard, and violates the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA). The NVRA clearly prohibits states from systematically preventing eligible persons from exercising their right to vote by removing voters from the rolls based on their failure to vote. We are confident that the Supreme Court will confirm Congress’ considered and bipartisan judgment on this issue by affirming the Sixth Circuit’s well-reasoned decision.”
Freda Levenson, Legal Director of the ACLU of Ohio, released the following statement: “Ohio’s purge of eligible voters has served as a powerful mechanism of voter suppression. Ohio has purged hundreds of thousands of people from the voter rolls simply because they have exercised their right not to vote in a few elections. This purge process violates the National Voter Registration Act. We are confident that the Supreme Court will uphold the correct decision from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, and will ultimately ensure that eligible Ohio voters may not be stricken from the rolls.”
Andre Washington, President of the Ohio A. Philip Randolph Institute, released the following statement: “In 2015, Ohio conducted a massive statewide purge of infrequent voters from its registration rolls. In Cuyahoga County alone, approximately 40,000 individuals were unlawfully purged merely for choosing not to vote, and a disproportionate number of those people came from low-income neighborhoods and communities of color. The Supreme Court must uphold the Sixth Circuit’s decision to ensure that all Ohio citizens have the opportunity to exercise their right to vote.”
Brian Davis, Executive Director of the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, released the following statement: “As we have seen time and time again, homeless voters and other marginalized voters have to fight to make their voices heard in the electoral process. NEOCH works hard to bring these voters into the electoral process, but unfortunately, the state of Ohio has used the Supplemental Process to illegally shut many of them out again. The Supreme Court must ensure that this injustice is corrected.”
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 hundreds 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 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.
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.