With the November election now just 47 days away, the decision Friday by a federal appeals court, ruling the state’s purge of eligible voters violates the National Voter Registration Act, arrives at a critical time, as the presidential contest between Democrats and Republicans is essentially a toss up race in the critical battleground State of Ohio.
The AP reported today on the decision involving The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio and the public advocacy group Demos, two groups that had challenged the state’s process for maintaining its voter rolls, claiming it illegally drops registered voters based on their failure to vote.
A three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati ruled today that Ohio’s process violates the National Voter Registration Act. Ohio’s two-term Republican Secretary of State, Jon Husted, has said the process used by Ohio for more than 20 years is constitutional and fully complies with state and federal laws. In a July court brief, the Justice Department urged the appeals court to reverse the district judge’s decision.
In its decision, the court said, “[I]t is clear that the Supplemental Process does include a trigger, and that that trigger constitutes perhaps the plainest possible example of a process that “result[s] in” removal of a voter from the rolls by reason of his or her failure to vote… We therefore hold that Ohio’s Supplemental Process violates Section 8, subsection (b)(2) of the NVRA” [National Voting Rights Act]
Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper and state Rep. Kathleen Clyde wasted no time remarking on the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling.
“Today’s appellate court decision is a huge win for Ohio voters and voting rights generally,” said Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper. “The court’s decision reaffirms a basic principle: voters shouldn’t lose their right to vote simply because they vote infrequently. The Court found that Secretary of State Jon Husted has spent years purging Ohio voters for exactly that reason, in clear violation of federal law. Given this ruling, Husted should immediately restore active status to thousands of voters who have been illegally purged and stop wasting taxpayer money defending unlawful practices that violate voting rights.”
Rep. Kathleen Clyde, who has been touted as a candidate in 2018 for secretary of state, said it’s gratifying to see this victory for Ohio. “Purging eligible voters from the rolls simply for voting infrequently violates the National Voter Registration Act, as we have said all along. I urge the Secretary of State to accept this decision, let the people vote and let the votes count.”
Plunderbund has previously reported on the coalition of Republican AG Mike DeWine and SOS Jon Husted to spend thousands of dollars in legal fees defending state laws specifically aimed at keeping certain voters from accessing the polls.
Previously published research on the issue in Ohio said the state employs two separate programs to identify who to remove from voter rolls. For one program, the state uses the National Change of Address Database to identify those voters who have moved. But Ohio’s “Supplemental Process” has been the subject of recent debate
“Through that process, Ohio’s county boards of elections compile lists of voters who have been inactive for two years and begin the removal process, according to court documents in an American Civil Liberties Union case against the state,” The Post in Athens, Ohio wrote.
A district court had ruled in Secretary of State Husted’s favor in June, but today’s reversal delivers good news for Ohio Democrats who need to turnout the vote this election cycle. The U.S. Department of Justice said Ohio cannot use inactivity to “trigger” the removal process without further reliable evidence the voter has moved, calling it “unreasonable to infer” a change in residence due to two years of inactivity. As many as 100,000 voters could be affected by the court’s ruling today.
In related news, a new report out today by the Cincinnati .com says records provided by Ohio’s 88 county election officials “were a morass of half-kept data and confusing spikes in removed voters,” even though Mr. Husted has maintained that counties are removing voters from the rolls in a uniform manner across all 88 counties.