The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has ordered emergency relief that will protect the right to vote for countless Ohioans who were unlawfully purged from the voter rolls.
The Court noted that Ohio, for years, has been purging voters from the registration rolls using notices that likely violate the requirements of the National Voter Registration Act (“NVRA”). It ordered Ohio to count ballots cast by certain Ohio residents purged pursuant to a practice known as the Supplemental Process, which results in removals when a voter has not cast a ballot or engaged in other election activity for a period of six years.
“Today’s ruling will allow Ohio voters—who would have been unlawfully disenfranchised—to cast their ballot this November,” said Stuart Naifeh, Senior Counsel at Demos. “In a state where elections have been won or lost by only one vote, protecting the right of eligible voters to have their voices heard will uphold the fundamental principles on which our democracy is supposed to operate.”
The relief ordered, known as the APRI Exception, requires that individuals who have been purged have their provisional ballots counted if the voter (1) appears in person to vote during early voting or on Election Day, (2) was removed from the registration rolls in or since 2011, and (3) did not become ineligible to vote for another reason subsequent to the time they were purged. Exceptions to the in-person voting requirement exist for uniformed, overseas, sick, and disabled voters who are unable to make it to the polls.
“Black, low-income, and other traditionally marginalized voters have been disproportionately removed under Ohio’s purge practice,” said Andre Washington, President of the Ohio A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI). “Illegally removing these individuals from the voter rolls and disenfranchising them prevents Ohio from creating a truly inclusive and representative democracy—one where all its citizens have an equal chance to make their voices heard.”
“This has been a hard-fought victory for Ohio voters,” said Freda Levenson, legal director for the ACLU of Ohio. “We are thrilled that the Sixth Circuit responded to this emergency, and ruled to allow unlawfully-purged voters to vote this November. Turnout next week could break historic records. This decision allows eligible voters to participate. This is a bright moment for democracy.”
The relief ordered does not end the Sixth Circuit’s review of the case. The Court is slated to consider the full merits of whether Ohio violated the NVRA’s notice requirements.
“Today’s decision will protect the right of housing-insecure persons to cast a ballot in November and have their votes counted,” said Chris Knestrick, Director of the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (NEOCH). “We will continue to fight to ensure that no person is unlawfully removed from the voter rolls and denied their fundamental right to vote.”