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Secretary of State's Office Issues Statement On Democratic Party Lawsuit

STATEMENT ATTRIBUTABLE TO SPOKESPERSON MAGGIE SHEEHAN:
“We’re proud of providing unprecedented levels of transparency into this process, but we won’t ignore the law. When we partnered with the NAACP, the Ohio Republican Party, the Urban League, church organizations, and labor unions to get voters activated, the Ohio Democratic Party stood on the sidelines. Of course a lawsuit is the next step in their tired playbook.”

BACKGROUND:

REGISTRATION RESET LIST:
The Registration Reset list consists of registrations identified by county boards of elections as registrations that have been inactive for six years, or at least 12 elections. While each registration will receive a communication from their county board of elections regarding the process for maintaining their registrations’ active status, this new initiative partners with community organizations across Ohio to find and assist individuals that wish to continue their active registration status. Over twenty partners, including the Urban League, NAACP, labor unions, multiple church organizations, and the Ohio Republican Party have partnered with Secretary LaRose in this effort.
To date, 11,393 of the registrations who received last chance notices have become active voters and will not be removed on the September 6th deadline.

APRI SETTLEMENT:
A settlement was announced on August 29th in the A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI) v. LaRose case regarding the inactive voter confirmation notices sent prior to 2016 as part of the Supplemental process of general voter list maintenance.

The settlement continues a practice begun during Secretary of State Husted’s administration of allowing persons whose registrations were cancelled through the supplemental process to vote a provisional ballot, provided that provisional ballot reflects the person’s residence address is within the same county as where their cancelled registration originated. The state agreed to extend the practice begun by Secretary Husted through December 31, 2022 for persons whose registrations were cancelled between 2011 and 2019 via the supplemental process.

On June 11, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Husted v. APRI that the supplemental process used as a part of Ohio’s voter list maintenance program did not violate federal National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (“NVRA”). After the Court’s ruling, the case returned to the federal trial court to resolve the remaining issue in the case – whether confirmation notices sent to inactive voters between 2007 and 2015 complied with the notice provisions of the NVRA. The Secretary of State’s office has consistently maintained in court that these older confirmation notices comply with the NVRA’s notice provisions in all respects. Secretary LaRose determined that it made little sense to continue to spend taxpayer resources litigating the legality of a form of notice that is not used anymore. Thus, the Secretary and the Plaintiffs engaged in settlement negotiations to resolve the case and reached agreement. The Secretary of State was represented in this case by Attorney General Dave Yost.

CITATION OF LAW:
codes.ohio.gov/orc/3503.21

(A) The registration of a registered elector shall be canceled upon the occurrence of any of the following:

  • (7) The failure of the registered elector, after having been mailed a confirmation notice, to do either of the following:
  • (a) Respond to such a notice and vote at least once during a period of four consecutive years, which period shall include two general federal elections;
  • (b) Update the elector's registration and vote at least once during a period of four consecutive years, which period shall include two general federal elections.

R.C. 3503.21(E) sets forth the timeline of cancellation for the elector’s registration identified in R.C. 3503.21(A)(7) and R.C. 3503.21(B)(2). The elector’s registration must be canceled no later than 120 days after the date of the second general federal election in which the elector fails to vote or no later than 120 days after the expiration of the four-year period in which the elector fails to vote or respond to a confirmation notice, which is later. Thus, pursuant to Ohio law and Directive 2015-09, the timeline for cancellation of the elector’s registration identified pursuant to the 2015 Supplemental Process could range from June 16, 2019 to October 7, 2019. (Four years from June 30, 2015 plus 120 days. However, according to the Election Official Manual, the last date of registration cancellation should never be within 30 days of an election)

October 7, 2019 is one month before the November general election. The Secretary felt it was important to give cancelled registrations ample time to re-register for the November general election. The deadline of which is October 7th, 2019. Thus, the deadline of September 6th for cancellation was chosen.

ACCURACY OF THE LISTS OF INACTIVE REGISTRATIONS PROVIDED BY COUNTY BOARDS OF ELECTIONS:

  • Ohio is a home-rule state, meaning in this case that the county boards of elections own and manage their county’s voter registration data.
  • Each one of those counties utilize a vendor to help them with the management of that data – essentially, the IT behind it all.
  • In Ohio, the 88 counties utilize one of four vendors who support the respective county’s registration information: ES&S, Dims, Triad or Sequoia.
  • Among their responsibilities, the vendors provide counties with directions for how to run queries of data and are leaned upon to provide support for accurate data downloads
  • In the case of the NCOA and Supplemental process, each county used the system provided by their respective vendor to download the voter registration data to identify who should receive a last chance notice, as directed by Secretary LaRose.
  • In addition, they were required to send this list to the Secretary’s office for use in the Registration Reset list. To our knowledge, this is the first time an Ohio Secretary of State has pulled back the curtain on this information and encouraged 3rd parties to engage in the process.
  • It’s important to point out that our office does NOT have the source data used by the counties.
  • The Secretary’s office is currently investigating concerns about the accuracy of the lists of inactive registrations as produced by the county boards of elections.

IMPORTANCE OF ACCURATE VOTER ROLLS:
Abandoned registrations have caused significantly inflated voter rolls and less accurate registration lists. In 2018 under the previous administration, only 3 percent of the nearly 277,000 registrations who received “last chance” mailings chose to submit documentation to continue as an active voter. Earlier this year, Secretary LaRose sent a mailing to the remaining abandoned registrations and only 0.1 percent of the nearly 265,000 abandoned registrations chose to re-register as an Ohio voter at the same address where they had previously been registered.
Reasons for registration abandonment could include:

  • Registered individual has moved out of the county or state and failed to notify their previous local board of elections.
  • Registered individual has passed away.
  • Registered individual has chosen not to be active in the voting process.

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Media Contact

Maggie Sheehan
[email protected]
(614) 466-2729