Federal appeals court: Ohio's removal of voters violates law

Story highlights

  • The decision concerned an Ohio policy of removing voters from the rolls after 6 years of inactivity
  • The ruling is a victory for groups who had argued the program violated the National Voter Registration Act

(CNN)A federal appeals court ruled Friday that Ohio's method of removing names from its voter rolls violates federal law, and sent the case back to the district court for a remedy.

The ruling by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals is a victory for the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio and other groups who had argued the program violated the National Voter Registration Act and expressed concern that the purge would effect "many thousands" of Ohio voters.
They hope the lower court will move quickly to direct that names that were improperly removed should be put back on the voting list or that voters not on the list be allowed to file a provisional ballot.
    The appeals court said that Ohio's so-called "Supplemental Process," where "a voter is purged from the rolls after six years of inactivity -- even if he or she did not move and otherwise remains eligible to vote," is in violation of the NVRA.
    "We are very happy that the court found that (Secretary of State Jon Husted's) process of purging voters in Ohio is illegal and must stop," Mike Brickner, Senior Policy Director at the ACLU, said in a statement. "We don't believe that any voters should be removed from the rolls simply because they haven't voted in a few elections."
    Friday's ruling reverses a district court ruling that had gone in favor of Secretary of State Jon Husted. The lower court had held that Ohio's "public interest is being served" and that the "procedures of maintaining the voter registration rolls ensure the integrity of the election process. "
    In a statement, Husted said the 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."
    He questioned how the lower court -- charged with finding an appropriate remedy -- will proceed.
    "It is one thing to strike down a longstanding procedure; it is another to craft a workable remedy. To that end, if the final resolution requires us to reinstate voting eligibility to individuals who have died or moved out of Ohio, we will appeal."