Some Ohio residents who were removed from state's voter registration rolls must be allowed to cast provisional ballots in the Nov. 6 election under an injunction issued today by a divided U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.
The state of Ohio purges voters from its registration rolls if they haven't voted in recent elections or responded to mailers sent by the Ohio Secretary of State. Critics, including groups aligned with the Democratic Party, have decried the purging of voters from registration rolls, while supporters, including Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, say it helps prevent voter fraud and keeps the state's voting system efficient.
The process has been subject to a series of court battles brought by groups like the A. Philip Randolph Institute, most recently taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court. After that court in June upheld Ohio's voter purges, Husted ordered the end of a process called the APRI Exception by which voters purged from the state's registered voter rolls could cast provisional ballots.
The Sixth Circuit's injunction today relates to an emergency motion filed by the Randolph Institute and others as it appeals the state's halt of the APRI Exception and its voter removal practices. The plaintiffs are asking that the exception be reinstated on the grounds that voters were not adequately alerted as to the consequences of not responding to mailers around voter registration, a violation of the National Voter Registration Act. Since the U.S. Supreme Court did not rule on that specific issue, it has been sent back to the lower courts.
The court agreed that the plaintiffs likely had a good chance of proving the mailers the state sent did not meet the requirements set down by the NVRA. The motion also asks the courts to stop Ohio from purging voters pending the plaintiffs' appeal, a request the Sixth Circuit rejected.
The injunction means Ohio must continue to honor votes cast under the APRI Exception. Under that rule, in place since the court battle over voter purging began prior to the 2016 election, county boards of election have to count provisional ballots cast by voters purged between 2011 and 2015 if they meet the following criteria:
- If the voter cast the ballot at their county’s early voting location or at the correct polling location on Election Day;
- If the voter continues to reside in the same county where they were previously registered;
- If the voter did not become ineligible by reason of felony conviction, mental incapacity or death subsequent to the date on which their name was removed from the rolls.
The injunction is in place pending Sixth Circuit hearings on the Randolph Institute's appeal.