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LaRose Encouraging a Fresh Start for Eligible Ohioans

COLUMBUS – Today Secretary LaRose released the new Fresh Start list. The list of cancelled registrations as required by state and federal law will be shared with organizations that were part of the Registration Reset initiative as well as posted online – all in an effort to allow interested Ohioans a fresh opportunity to register to vote prior to the October 7 deadline.

The Fresh Start list provided today contains 182,858 registrations that were cancelled pursuant to state and federal laws, though that number is subject to change because certain municipalities in Cuyahoga, Lucas and Summit counties held elections on September 10 and therefore registrations in those impacted precincts will not be acted upon by those counties until next week. This list is compiled from data provided by Ohio’s county boards of elections but does not currently contain data from Tuscarawas or Portage counties because they have not yet provided data that adequately maintains the protections instituted by Secretary LaRose’s directive on September 6.

Once again highlighting unprecedented levels of transparency, Secretary LaRose has ordered the Fresh Start list be made public. 

A searchable list can be found by visiting OhioSoS.gov/FreshStart.

Media may request a digital copy of the full list by e-mailing [email protected]

“We’ve brought unprecedented transparency to this process; and our partnership with community groups, churches, labor unions, and other interested parties has confirmed what we’ve always believed: a process that for decades has relied on eighty-eight county boards of elections, sitting down at eighty-eight different keyboards, querying eighty-eight different databases is imperfect.” LaRose said. “It’s time to fix that imperfect system. That’s why we’ve already endorsed new legislation that will modernize our registration system and bring the improvements necessary to develop the accurate and secure voter rolls Ohioans deserve.”

In March, Secretary LaRose launched his first Fresh Start campaign; mailing 264,516 letters and registration forms to registrants cancelled under the previous administration. Of those 264,516 letters, only 0.1% re-registered and matched the name and address of the previously abandoned voter registration. 

IMPACTED REGISTRATIONS ARE PROTECTED AND WILL BE ABLE TO VOTE EVEN IF CANCELLED

Per a settlement with the A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI), an exception will continue that allows any person whose registration was cancelled pursuant to the Supplemental Process and who continues to reside in the same county in which their registration was cancelled to cast a provisional ballot. If that provisional ballot complies with all the requirements to cast and count a provisional ballot, then any such vote will be counted and result in the person’s registration being restored. More information can be found by clicking here.

Andre Washington, President of APRI, also stated the following on September 13th:

“When you came into office, you said ‘I’m going to sit down and we’re going to work this out’. We didn’t get everything we wanted. They didn’t get everything they wanted, but guess what, all Ohioans won. And that was the main thing. It wasn’t about the Secretary of State’s office. It wasn’t about the A. Philip Randolph Institute. It was all about Ohio, and I am so glad we have a Secretary of State that said it’s about Ohioans. I’m so glad that we have a Secretary of State that said ‘I’m going to work with each and every one of these organizations because it’s not about me, it’s not about my Party, it’s about Ohio’, and I thank you, I thank you.”

Video of this statement can be found by clicking here.

REAL SOLUTIONS TO FIX OHIO’S VOTER REGISTRATION SYSTEM

While partisans have preferred to call on Secretary LaRose to not follow the law, Secretary LaRose has been working with legislators on both sides of the aisle to bring solutions to the table.

  • NEW LEGISLATION TO ENSURE MORE SECURE, BETTER VENDOR SERVICE

Secretary LaRose also has proposed new legislation that has been introduced in the State Senate that will place voter registration database systems under the purview of a re-named Board of Voting System Examiners (BVSE).

By requiring vendors to meet required standards, Ohio will greatly reduce a significant vulnerability. Enhanced cyber-security protections and oversight will mitigate the risk that foreign actors can manipulate our voter registration systems and deliver more accurate and efficient data to Ohio’s 88 county boards of elections. A Board of Voting System Examiners will allow for a stronger, more accurate, and more secure voter registration system.

A fact sheet on the new legislation can be found by clicking here (PDF).

  • MODERNIZING VOTER REGISTRATION WILL CREATE MORE ACCURATE VOTER ROLLS

Secretary LaRose has called on Ohio to embrace a modernized system that will make our voter rolls more accurate and secure. Instead of relying on voters to remember to update their information at their local board of elections or on the Secretary of State website, it would require state government to automate this process. A system that allows Ohioans to seamlessly update their registration information when they interact with state government will significantly improve the accuracy of Ohio’s voter rolls. More information on VVR can be found by clicking here (PDF).

EXAMPLE:Presently, eligible voters are asked if they want to fill out a paper registration form when they visit their local BMV – oftentimes leading to improperly filled out forms or data-entry errors. With Voter Verification and Registration (VVR), the voter’s information will already be filled in and presented on a screen — making it easy to choose to register to vote or update the registration. 

UNPRECEDENTED TRANSPARENCY HAS WORKED, INCREASED NUMBER OF ACTIVE VOTERS

As a part of this current process, Secretary LaRose has implemented unprecedented levels of transparency to ensure every registrant can have their voice heard. His creation of the Registration Reset list was a new idea to provide an additional way to reach out via outside community partners to those registrations that receive last chance notices. The goal was two-fold: keep more voters on the rolls and to give these organizations an opportunity to scrutinize the list for accuracy. Partners since this process began in July have included the League of Women Voters, the NAACP, the Urban League, labor unions, church organizations and the Ohio Republican Party.

The Registration Reset list has worked. Of the 234,879 registrations that were subject to cancellation, over 40,000 registrations were saved by Secretary LaRose's unprecedented transparency, willingness to open up this process to outside groups, and protections in-county moves.

WHY DID THIS VOTER LIST MAINTENANCE PROCESS NEED TO TAKE PLACE?

It’s important to understand that once a confirmation notice has been sent, law explicitly requires the cancellation of an inactive registration if it has not had voter activity over the next four years. So in this case, in June 2015, the previous administration issued Directive 2015-09, ordering local boards of elections to mail notices to electors who have been inactive for two years in order to confirm their status as a registered voter. This action started the four-year clock for the cancellation of their registration, pending voter activity. 

To be clear, if we did not issue our directive in June of this year, and if inactive registrations don’t respond and their registrations aren’t cancelled, we would be explicitly breaking the law.

WHAT DOES THE LAW SAY?

3503.21 Occurrences resulting in cancellation of registration.

(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.

PARTISANS HAVE ATTEMPTED TO USE SECRETARY LAROSE’S TRANSPARENCY FOR THEIR OWN POLITICAL GAIN, SCARING VOTERS

Despite Secretary LaRose’s unprecedented levels of transparency and collaboration, certain partisans have attempted to utilize the opportunity for their own political gain. But much worse, they have used fear tactics to scare voters.

In response to a lawsuit by these partisans, Judge James Graham, United States District Judge, said the following in the September 4, 2019 opinion of Ohio Democratic Party vs. LaRose (read by clicking here (PDF).) 

  • The Court finds that the ODP has not, at this early stage, demonstrated a strong likelihood of success on the merits. The OPD’s case rests on the factual assertion that there are up to 30,000 voters whose names are on the Registration Reset List in error. The ODP has not submitted any evidence in support of this assertion. Rather, it relies on the reports of other organizations that they have found errors on the List.
  • The Secretary has shown … that he restored those registrants who were eligible to vote to the Voter File. In other words, the Secretary has acted to ensure eligible voters are not removed from the File when he has discovered errors on the List. Even if the outside reports of inaccuracies are true, the ODP has not established a strong likelihood of success in proving that the Secretary’s system is so fundamentally unfair as to constitute a Due Process violation. Federal law places an affirmative duty on the Secretary to make “a reasonable effort to remove registrants who are ineligible to vote.” 52 U.S.C. § 21083(a)(4)(A). Indeed, registrants who “have not responded to a notice and who have not voted in 2 consecutive general elections for Federal office shall be removed from the official list of eligible voters, except that no registrant may be removed solely by reason of a failure to vote.” Id. at § 21083(a)(4)(A)
  • To the Court’s knowledge there is no requirement that the Secretary make public the list of those who would be removed from the voter registration rolls, but he did so. And the Secretary provided transparency to the point of inviting interested organizations to review the Registration Reset List and provide feedback. This effort, it would seem, would serve to reduce inaccuracies on the List. There is no evidence demonstrating that the Secretary is recalcitrant in fixing errors when his own staff can verify them. As noted above, the Secretary has on two occasions this year restored eligible voters to the Voter File.

 

  • The Court further finds that the ODP has not met its burden of showing irreparable injury absent an injunction. Without question, denial of the fundamental right to vote “constitutes irreparable injury.” Obama for Am. v. Husted, 697 F.3d 423, 436 (6th Cir. 2012). The evidence, however, establishes that the Secretary has implemented numerous safeguards to enable eligible voters to vote.
  • ODP has not demonstrated irreparable injury in the absence of a TRO. The Court further finds that the public has a substantial interest in the maintenance of accurate and up-to-date voter registration records. Indeed, the State has an obligation to keep the records “accurate” and “updated regularly.” 52 U.S.C. § 21083(a)(4). The Secretary has been transparent in releasing the Registration Reset List to the public and inviting feedback. Court intervention to disrupt and delay this process would not serve the public interest.

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Media Contact

Maggie Sheehan
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(614) 466-2729