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Husted Files Brief, Urges U.S. Supreme Court to Overturn Sixth Circuit Ruling on Voter Roll Maintenance

COLUMBUS – Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted today filed a brief with the Supreme Court of the United States in Jon Husted, Ohio Secretary of State v. A Philip Randolph Institute, et al.  

Last September, a divided panel of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court ruling by U.S. District Court Judge George C. Smith. The decision would effectively end Ohio’s long-standing process of maintaining accurate voter rolls as required by the state’s constitution, the 1993 National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), and the Help America Vote Act (2002). You can read Secretary Husted’s statement on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision issued last September here. 

“Maintaining accurate and up-to-date voter rolls is essential to preserving the integrity of our elections in Ohio,” Secretary Husted said. “The last four secretaries of state – both Democrat and Republican – all followed the same practice in fulfilling their duties under federal law to have clean voter lists. I remain hopeful that the nation’s highest court will overturn the Sixth Circuit’s 2-1 ruling, so that Ohio may continue to properly maintain its voter rolls to conduct fair and honest elections in which all Ohioans can have confidence.”

The following quotes are excerpts from the 100-page filing. The full brief is available here (PDF).

“In 1929, Ohio adopted its first permanent registration system for certain cities.  This system required boards of election to cancel the registrations of those who had not voted for two years.  Boards sent individuals ‘a printed postcard notice of that fact.’ In 1977, Ohio’s legislature mandated permanent registration statewide. It also eliminated the rule removing individuals for nonvoting. Ohio’s citizens responded to the latter change with a constitutional amendment providing: ‘Any elector who fails to vote in at least one election during any period of four consecutive years shall cease to be an elector unless he again registers to vote.’” Page 5

“After the NVRA, Ohio’s legislature changed its registration laws.  It directed the Secretary of State to ‘prescribe procedures to identify and cancel the registration’ of registrants who have moved. Ohio’s then-Secretary adopted two processes that have been in place ever since, spanning Secretaries of State from both political parties.”  Page 10

“Even in 1993, the NVRA allowed States to send notices to nonvoters, and to remove them if they failed to respond and to vote in two more elections. To reach the opposite result, the Sixth Circuit rewrote the NVRA’s Failure-To-Vote Clause and created a conflict with its Confirmation Procedure.”  Page 19 

“Indeed, reading the Failure-To-Vote Clause to bar States from sending notices to nonvoters creates an ‘[in]coherent regulatory scheme.’  The clause does not bar States from sending notices to the entire electorate, because that statewide canvass would not tie notices to nonvoting. But the canvass would be less reliable in identifying ineligible registrants than Ohio’s process because it would use the failure to respond to the notice plus only the Confirmation Procedure’s four years of nonvoting to conclude that a registrant had become ineligible. It would be odd to read the clause as allowing States to base removals on a failure to respond to a notice and four years of nonvoting, but barring States to base removals on a failure to respond to a notice and six years of nonvoting.”  Page 26

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