Groups sue Ohio over voter registration process

Groups sue Ohio over voter registration process
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Voting rights advocates are suing to kill a process in a crucial battleground state they say illegally removes voters from the state’s registration rolls.

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The public policy group Demos and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in a lawsuit filed Wednesday claim Ohio is violating the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 by canceling the registrations of voters who do not vote in three successive federal elections or in the intervening local elections. Ohio calls it the “supplemental process.”

“Under the supplemental process, Ohio is removing eligible voters from its rolls for no reason other than their failure to vote,” Stuart Naifeh, Demos's senior counsel, said in a statement. “This unlawful practice must stop and it must stop now. Without immediate court intervention, many Ohio voters will find themselves denied this fundamental right when they go to the polls in November.”

The groups sued Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted on Behalf of the Ohio A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI) and the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (NEOCH).

APRI and NEOCH have asked the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio to block the state from using the supplemental process. The groups claim the state already has another process to ensure its voter rolls are up-to-date. A separate roll-maintenance system uses change-of-address data provided by the U.S. Postal Service to identify and remove voters who have moved.

“As we have seen time and time again, homeless voters and other marginalized voters have to fight to make their voices heard in the electoral process,” NEOCH Executive Director Brian Davis said in a statement. “NEOCH works hard to bring these voters into the electoral process, but unfortunately, the state of Ohio, with the Supplemental Process, has illegally shut many of them out again.”

In a statement Wednesday afternoon, Husted called the lawsuit “politically motivated, election-year politics.”

“Voter rolls with deceased voters and people who've moved out-of-state have long contributed to the problems of voter fraud, long lines and discarded ballots,” he said. “In 2011, there were several Ohio counties with more registered voters than eligible voters."

To remedy that problem, Husted said the state worked to bring its rolls into full compliance with federal and state laws, removing nearly 340,000 deceased voters and 1.3 million duplicate registrations.

“Ohio manages its voter rolls in direct compliance of both federal and state laws, and is consistent with an agreement in this same federal court just four years ago," he said. “This lawsuit is politically motivated, election-year politics, is a waste of taxpayer dollars and opens the door for voter fraud in Ohio."

--This report was updated at 2:05 p.m.