Certain Ohio voters who had been purged from the state’s electoral rolls for not voting over a six-year period will be allowed to vote in the midterm elections this year, federal judges ruled Wednesday.
The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned, in part, an Oct. 10 ruling by a federal judge that said voters had not been illegally purged in the state. Advocacy groups such as the Ohio chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, and public policy organization Demos had continued to challenge the state’s confirmation notices sent to voters.
The groups argued the state was vague in informing voters of their removal from county voter rolls for not voting in three federal elections or taking other voting-related actions, according to the Associated Press. They said the letters were inadequate under federal law and did not clarify the consequences of not responding or failing to vote within a four-year period.
#BREAKING - WE WON A RELIEF FOR PURGED VOTERS IN TIME FOR THE NOVEMBER 6 ELECTION!— ACLU of Ohio (@acluohio) October 31, 2018
All purged voters should cast a provisional ballot on Tuesday. Thank you to our amazing team of lawyers! @Demos_Org @ACLU pic.twitter.com/GpPE1tUl2K
The court agreed and granted the emergency motion. “Plaintiffs have a reasonable, and perhaps even greater, likelihood of success on the merits of their claim that defendant's confirmation notice did not adequately advise registrants of the consequences of failure to respond, as the NVRA (National Voting Rights Act) requires," the court ruled Wednesday.
The voting-rights groups had further argued that some elections in Ohio have been settled by small margins, and that turning away thousands of potential voters could alter outcomes. Ohio has traditionally been a swing state, and with the midterms less than a week away, the ruling will allow provisional ballots submitted by voters purged from the rolls between 2011 and 2015 to be taken into account in the state’s early voting — as long as they still live in the same county of their last registration and have not been disqualified from voting due to felony conviction, mental incapacity, or death.
The court did not block the act of purging voters from the rolls itself. Plaintiffs led by the A. Philip Randolph Institute, a nonprofit organization for African-American trade unionists, and other voting rights groups had in June lost a Supreme Court case challenging Ohio’s election administration process overall, deeming it unconstitutional. The advocacy groups, who argue the act amounts to voter suppression, are still appealing the original Oct. 10 ruling.