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June 11, 2018 - U.S. Supreme Court Issues Opinion in Husted v. APRI

Ohio Secretary of State

June 11, 2018


COLUMBUS – The Supreme Court of the United States ruled today in Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute, upholding the supplemental process used in Ohio to maintain the Statewide Voter Registration Database. The following may be attributed to Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted:
“Today’s decision is a victory for election integrity, and a defeat for those who use the federal court system to make election law across the country. This decision is validation of Ohio’s efforts to clean up the voter rolls and now with the blessing nation’s highest court, it can serve as a model for other states to use.”
Excerpts from today’s Supreme Court decision (PDF)(opens in a new window):

“The process that Ohio uses to remove voters on change-of residence grounds does not violate the Failure-to-Vote Clause or any other part of the NVRA…Ohio’s removal process follows subsection (d) to the letter: It does not remove a registrant on change-of-residence grounds unless the registrant is sent and fails to mail back a return card and then fails to vote for an additional four years.” – Page 2

“... the explanation added by HAVA in 2002 makes it clear that the statutory phrase ‘by reasons of the person’s failure to vote’ in the Failure-to-Vote Clause does not categorically preclude the use of nonvoting as a test for removal.” – Page 5

“As noted, subsection (d), the provision of the NVRA that directly addresses the procedures that a State must follow before removing a registrant from the rolls on change-of residence grounds, provides that a State may remove a registrant who “(i) has failed to respond to a notice” and “(ii) has not voted or appeared to vote . . . during the period beginning on the date of the notice and ending on the day after the date of the second general election for Federal office that occurs after the date of the notice” (about four years). Not only are States allowed to remove registrants who satisfy these requirements, but federal law makes this removal mandatory. – Page 8

“Respondents argue (and the Sixth Circuit held) that, even if Ohio’s process complies with subsection (d), it nevertheless violates the Failure-to-Vote Clause—the clause that generally prohibits States from removing people from the rolls “by reason of [a] person’s failure to vote.” Respondents point out that Ohio’s Supplemental Process uses a person’s failure to vote twice: once as the trigger for sending return cards and again as one of the requirements for removal. Respondents conclude that this use of nonvoting is illegal. We reject this argument because the Failure-to-Vote Clause, both as originally enacted in the NVRA and as amended by HAVA, simply forbids the use of nonvoting as the sole criterion for removing a registrant, and Ohio does not use it that way. Instead, as permitted by subsection (d), Ohio removes registrants only if they have failed to vote and have failed to respond to a notice.” – Page 9

“There is no plausible reason why Congress would enact the provision that respondents envision. As interpreted by respondents, HAVA would be like a law that contains one provision making it illegal to drive with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 or higher and another provision making it illegal to drive with a blood alcohol level of 0.10 or higher. The second provision would not only be redundant; it would be confusing and downright silly.” – Pages 13-14

“This argument is based on a dubious empirical conclusion that the NVRA and HAVA do not allow us to indulge. Congress clearly did not think that the failure to send back a return card was of no evidentiary value because Congress made that conduct one of the two requirements for removal under subsection (d).” – Page 15-16

“Ohio simply treats the failure to return a notice and the failure to vote as evidence that a registrant has moved, not as a ground for removal. And in doing this, Ohio simply follows federal law.” – Page 17

“The notice in question here warns recipients that unless they take the simple and easy step of mailing back the preaddressed, postage prepaid card— or take the equally easy step of updating their information online—their names may be removed from the voting rolls if they do not vote during the next four years. It was Congress’s judgment that a reasonable person with an interest in voting is not likely to ignore notice of this sort.” – Page 20


American Civil Liberties Union
JUNE 11, 2018


WASHINGTON – In a 5-4 ruling in Husted v. APRI, the Supreme Court today upheld an Ohio voter purge practice that removes infrequent voters from the registration rolls.

“Voters should not be purged from the rolls simply because they have exercised their right not to vote. This ruling is a setback for voting rights, but it is not a green light to engage in wholesale purges of eligible voters without notice," said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project.

In APRI, Ohio asked the Supreme Court to overturn a federal appeals court decision that found an Ohio practice of targeting registrants who have not voted in a two-year period for removal from the voter rolls — when there is no evidence that the voter has become ineligible — violates a federal law known as the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA). The court assented to Ohio’s request, holding that the state’s process does not violate the NVRA’s prohibition on using non-voting as a basis for canceling registrations because, although the state indeed targets eligible voters who have not voted recently, non-voting is not “the sole criterion” for removing a registrant.

“Today’s decision threatens the ability of voters to have their voices heard in our elections,” said Stuart Naifeh, senior counsel at Demos, which led the legal team challenging the state’s practices. “The fight does not stop here. If states take today’s decision as a sign that they can be even more reckless and kick eligible voters off the rolls, we will fight back in the courts, the legislatures, and with our community partners across the country.”

“To have a healthy and functioning democracy, we must increase — not restrict — access to the ballot,” said Andre Washington, president, Ohio A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI). “Practices, like Ohio’s, that remove eligible but infrequent voters from the registration rolls disproportionately disenfranchise low-income voters and voters of color.”

In 2015 alone, hundreds of thousands of infrequent voters were purged from Ohio’s voter rolls. Over 40,600 registrants in the state’s largest county, Cuyahoga, were removed under the process allowed by the Supreme Court today. The majority of these registrants lived in low-income communities and communities of color.

“The Supreme Court decision to allow Ohio to purge its citizens from the rolls is a setback for voting rights nationwide,” said Paul Smith, vice president of Campaign Legal Center (CLC). “Our democracy weakens when states are permitted to take actions that discourage voter participation. By constructing obstacles that make voting more difficult, Ohio is sending the wrong message to its citizens.”

“Countless voters, including homeless and housing-insecure Ohioans, have already been stripped of their rights as a result of Ohio’s unjust and illogical purge process,” said Chris Knestrick, executive director, Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (NEOCH). “By greenlighting Ohio’s purge process, the court allowed states to shut out the voices of these voters.”
Dēmos and the ACLU of Ohio first filed suit on behalf of Ohio APRI, NEOCH, and Ohio resident Larry Harmon in 2016, prevailing in the circuit court and securing relief that protected the right to vote for purged Ohio voters in November 2016 and every other election in the state to date.

“Today’s decision is a blow, not just to Ohio voters, but to the democratic process. Giving the green light to Ohio’s purge process could have a ripple effect across the entire country. Despite this setback, the court’s decision will not hinder our current and future advocacy efforts. Marginalized populations remain extremely vulnerable to state-sanctioned voter suppression and disenfranchisement, and we will continue to fight to uphold the rights of eligible voters in the 2018 midterm elections, and beyond,” said Freda Levenson, legal director at the ACLU of Ohio.

The ruling is at:

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