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Statement from Secretary Husted on the U.S. Supreme Court Upholding Ohio's Process for Maintaining Accurate Voter Rolls

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):

“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

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