A federal appeals court ruled Friday against Ohio’s procedure for removing voters from state rolls, dealing a blow to Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted and handing a victory to voting rights advocates in a key presidential swing state. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit overruled a U.S. district court judge’s decision that Husted was not violating any laws with the process he was using to take inactive voters off the rolls if they did not confirm their status. By a 2-to-1 vote, the court of appeals sent the case back to the district court. The dispute centers on Ohio’s removal of possibly tens of thousands of voters from registration lists because they did not respond to letters seeking to confirm their addresses and have not cast a ballot since 2008, in what is being criticized as a “use it or lose it” rule for voting.
The appeals court ruled that Ohio’s practices could unjustifiably remove some eligible voters and are not in compliance with the National Voter Registration Act of 1993.
“A state cannot avoid the conclusion that its process results in removal ‘solely by reason of a failure to vote’ . . . by providing that the confirmation notice procedure is triggered by a registrant’s failure either to vote or to climb Mt. Everest or to hit a hole-in-one,” said the ruling.