NEOCH's Voter Purge Case goes to the US Supreme Court.

In a press release on September 18th 2017, Demos and American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)  annouced that they will take NEOCH's purge case to the US Supreme Court.

They "filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court detailing how Ohio is violating the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) by targeting registered voters who fail to vote in a two-year period for eventual removal from the registration rolls — even if they have not moved and are still fully eligible.

 Targeting people for removal simply based on non-voting is a powerful tool of voter suppression. In 2015 alone, over 40,600 registrants in Ohio’s largest county, Cuyahoga, were purged from the rolls using this flawed process, and countless Ohioans have been denied their right to vote as a result of these unlawful purges. These purges are in direct violation of the National Voting Rights Act (NVRA)—that explicitly states that voters can be removed if and when they are ineligible to vote—not voting often enough does not make a person ineligible

The widespread disenfranchisement caused by Ohio’s purge process spurred NEOCH and the Ohio A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI), and Ohio resident Larry Harmon to challenge the practice in federal court. A federal appeals court ruled against Ohio, finding that Ohio’s purge practice violated the NVRA’s prohibition on removing registrants from the rolls for not voting. The state appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, which will hear arguments in this case, Husted v. Ohio A. Philip Randolph Institute, on November 8th"

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. We worked hard to bring these voters into the electoral process, but unfortunately, the state of Ohio’s practice of purging registrants for their failure to vote locks the doors to the ballot box for many of these voters, which we believe is in violation of federal law and jeopardizes our democratic process.  

Here is a quick fact sheet about the Husted v. APRI 

Ohio’s Attempt to Purge Our Democracy

Ohio election officials use a controversial procedure to target voters for removal from the registration rolls based on their failure to vote “frequently” enough – a procedure known as the “Supplemental Process.” Under this process, Ohio counties initiate a removal procedure targeted at any voter who has failed to vote in a two-year period. Ohio assumes that anyone who has not voted in a two-year period must have become ineligible to vote by reason of a change in residence.  Based on that questionable assumption, Ohio targets these voters with a mailing requiring them to confirm that they are still eligible to vote.  If the voter does not respond to the notice or vote in the subsequent four-year period, the voter’s name is stripped from the registration rolls.

Many voters only vote in presidential elections, every four years. That does not mean they have changed their address or lost their eligibility to vote – instead it could mean that they are less interested in mid-term elections; or that they had work or family responsibilities that made it difficult to vote in a particular election. Nonetheless, many voters in Ohio get caught up in the state’s purge practice time and time again – finding themselves under constant threat of being removed from the voter rolls. And, if a voter sits out a single presidential election cycle, they are in danger of being purged from the rolls, even if nothing about their eligibility to vote has changed.

In 2015, hundreds of thousands of Ohio voters who had last voted in 2008 were removed from the voter registration rolls, with over 40,000 purged in Cuyahoga County alone. Many of these voters—as well as voters who had been purged under Ohio’s Supplemental Process in previous years—went to the polls in November 2015 and March 2016 only to learn that their names no longer appeared on the rolls, and were denied their fundamental right to vote. 

Case Background on Husted v. APRI

In 2016, after having notified Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted that Ohio’s Supplemental Process violates the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA), the public policy organization Dēmos and the ACLU of Ohio brought a lawsuit on behalf of the Ohio A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI), the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (NEOCH), and Mr. Harmon, a Navy veteran who voted in 2008 but was ultimately purged under the Supplemental Process even though he was living at the same address and remained fully eligible to vote.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit struck down Ohio’s controversial purge of infrequent voters from its voter rolls in September 2016, finding that Ohio’s Supplemental Process violates the NVRA’s prohibition on removing voters from the rolls by reason of a voter’s failure to vote. The federal district court then entered an injunction covering the November 2016 presidential election that ultimately allowed more than 7,500 Ohioans to cast a ballot and have it counted in that election. All of these people were eligible voters who would have been denied their right to vote under Ohio’s unlawful process, if the District Court had not invalidated Ohio’s improper practices.

Secretary of State Jon Husted filed a petition for certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court requesting the Court review and overturn the Sixth Circuit’s decision. In May, the Supreme Court granted the petition; it will hear arguments on November 8. 

Summary of What’s at Stake

Ohio’s Supplemental Process is an illegal process that unfairly places the burden of re-registration on voters whose eligibility has not changed.

The NVRA was signed into law in 1993, with bipartisan support, to protect the right to vote, increase the number of registered voters, and ensure that states properly maintain their voter rolls.

 Accurate maintenance of the voting registry is important and necessary, but that is not what Ohio’s Supplemental Process does. Ohio’s voter purge practices are based on false assumptions and result in the indiscriminate removal of far too many eligible voters.

At a time when there are approximately 50 million eligible citizens not registered to vote, it is critical that the Supreme Court strike down Ohio’s illegal process and ensure that other states across the country do not follow Ohio’s example to unlawfully remove eligible voters from the rolls and deny them their constitutional right to vote.