The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the purging of voters from voter registration rolls was both unconstitutional and illegal, coming against Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted and his administration, who were purging voters due to inactivity.
The October ruling decided purging registered voters was illegal and violated the National Voter Registration Act.
Since 2011, more than two million voters in Ohio were purged due to voter inactivity.
“To remedy that, those voters purged from the voter rolls after 2011 need to go to the polls, show up, and vote provisionally with a provisional ballot,” Emma Keeshin, legal assistant for the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, said.
Voters are removed from registration rolls for multiple reasons including death, change of residence, and in this case, voter inactivity.
“This ruling overturns 20 years of Ohio law and practice, which has been carried out by the last four secretaries of state, both Democrat and Republican,” Husted said in a statement that criticized the court ruling. “It also reverses a federal court settlement from just two years ago that required exactly the opposite action.”
But the issue isn’t just with the purging of voters, according to Freda Levenson, legal director for the ACLU of Ohio. It’s with the lack of notification for voters who have been taken off the list.
“Would-be voters from around the state of Ohio only learned they had been purged when they got turned away from the polls,” Levenson said in a press release. “Today’s action by the 6th Circuit will ensure we don’t hear more stories like this in future elections.”
Many homeless Americans were purged from the registration rolls due to their lack of a home address. After the court ruling, advocates for voting rights and civil liberties hope this will make strides in bettering the livelihoods of homeless and low-income families.
“Going forward, this victory will allow Ohio’s homeless voters to remain on the voter rolls despite their inability to receive and respond to the state’s registration confirmation notices or get to the polls on a consistent basis,” Brian Davis, the Executive Director at Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless said in a press release. “This decision will help ensure that the voters NEOCH works with can have their voices heard.”
Section eight of the Voter Registration Act discussed the terms for removing voters from registration rolls and how to do voter roll maintenance. The act, created in 1993, was meant to promote a more efficient democratic voting process by allowing more voices to be heard.
It is unpredictable how Ohio’s ruling will affect the outcome of the election. However, all of the voters purged from the polls are still eligible to vote using the provisional ballot.
“It’s just so important for people to show up to the polls and for people to tell their friends that even if you didn’t register to vote or you don’t think you’re registered, go to the polls and ask to vote provisionally,” Keeshin said.