COLUMBUS – In accordance with his duty as Ohio Secretary of State and following both federal and state law, Secretary LaRose has issued a directive to implement voter list maintenance. The US Supreme Court upheld the law as carried out by Secretaries Brown, Blackwell, Taft, Brunner, and Husted, but no previous Ohio Secretary of State has ever undertaken the level of outreach that Secretary LaRose is doing in 2020.
Under this process, no registration will be cancelled prior to the November 3, 2020 General Election. Any individual who appears on the Registration Readiness list and votes in the fall election or engages in any voter activity will not have their registration cancelled.
In 2016, the previous administration issued Directives 2016-17 and 2016-20 directing boards to send confirmation notices to those registrations that have been inactive for previous two years or appear on the National Change of Address (NCOA) List, 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. The 2016 confirmation notices sent pursuant to the Supplemental and NCOA processes began the forward-looking four-year clock for the registration to engage in voter activity.
“It is my duty to follow the law and this process is required to happen this year, but what we did is find a creative way to make it is as accurate as possible and encourage people to become active voters again,” said LaRose. “All you need to do is vote this November. Whether it’s casting your absentee ballot, voting early at your county board of elections, or in-person on election day – we want you to make your voice heard.”
Secretary LaRose’s directive requires local boards of elections to contact identified registrants and then remove those registrations who do not do at least one of the following:
- Respond to the 2016 confirmation notices from the county board of elections;
- Vote in the November 3, 2020 election;
- Request an absentee ballot application;
- Update or confirm their address;
- Update their registration;
- Do not respond to the forthcoming mailing advising them of their pending cancellation
WHY WON’T ANY REGISTRATION THAT IS PART OF THIS PROCESS BE CANCELLED BEFORE THE NOVEMBER ELECTION?
Consistent with the law, Secretary LaRose is prohibiting the boards of elections from removing any registration prior to the November 3, 2020 General Election.
HOW IS REGISTRATION READINESS DIFFERENT FROM PREVIOUS YEARS?
First, registrants will have more time than ever before to update their registration, confirm their registration, vote, or take any other action that will shift their registration status to active. Second, prior to issuing Directive 2020-14, Secretary LaRose’s office worked with boards and their vendors to vet a preliminary list of registrations identified as potential candidates for placement on the Registration Readiness list. In doing so, 1,342 registrations have already been placed on a “do not cancel list” because of inconsistencies found in the registrations due to human error or computer system error.
HOW MANY REGISTRATIONS ARE EXPECTED TO BE ON THE LIST?
The preliminary list of registrations provided by the counties included approximately 119,000 registrations. However, it is expected that the size of this list when registrations are officially submitted by counties will be fewer due to voter activity or other actions that shift a registration off the rolls such as moving out of state or death.
WILL THE REGISTRATION READINESS LIST BE SHARED WITH OUTSIDE ORGANIZATIONS?
Continuing his commitment to unprecedented transparency, Secretary LaRose will collect the registrations provided by the counties and upload them onto our website for anyone to review or download. Additionally, we look to continue our collaboration with outside organizations in an effort to 1) reach out to registrants and update their registration, and 2) utilize organizational expertise to collectively vet the list for accuracy.
ARE ERRORS EXPECTED TO BE FOUND?
There are 7.8 million voter registrations in Ohio that are overseen by 88 different county boards of elections which utilize five different private vendors, each with different computer systems, to help manage their systems. Errors are going to happen. That’s exactly why Secretary LaRose has adopted a policy of transparency to ensure that this lawfully required duty is completed as accurately as possible.
WHAT ARE SOME IMPORTANT DATES TO KNOW?
August 21, 2020 – County Boards of Elections must upload a spreadsheet containing the county number, county name, state voter ID, reason for active-confirmation status, registration date, last voted date, first name, last name, address, and voter status of each registration that meets the required criteria. This data will be reviewed and uploaded to the Ohio Secretary of State’s website as soon as possible following this deadline.
September 4, 2020 – County Boards of Elections must mail their Registration Readiness Notice to identified registrants by this date. This notice will inform the registrant that they may be cancelled after the November General Election unless they take action.
November 3, 2020 – If any previously identified registrant votes in the 2020 General Election, that registrant will not be cancelled. These registrants could also avoid cancellation by updating or confirming their address, updating their registration, or responding to the Registration Readiness Notice.
December 7, 2020 – In order to provide enough time to thoroughly review voting records after the completion of the General Election and pursuant to election law, no cancellations will take place before December 7, 2020.
ISN’T THERE A BETTER WAY TO MANAGE VOTER REGISTRATION IN OHIO?
Ohio is one of just six states which continue to operate a bottom-up voter registration system, where all voter registration data is collected and processed at the local level. Secretary LaRose has called for Ohio to consider a top-down voter registration system to streamline the process and allow for less error to occur.
WHAT HAPPENS IF SOMEONE WHO IS CANCELLED AFTER THIS YEAR’S ELECTION WANTS TO VOTE NEXT YEAR?
Any qualified Ohioan may register to vote.
WHAT DOES THE LAW STATE ABOUT THE VOTER LIST MAINTENANCE REQUIREMENT?
The voter list maintenance process is required by both state and federal law. As part of the supplemental process, registrants who have been inactive for six years, or at least 12 elections, and failed to respond to a confirmation notice, must be removed from the voter rolls. Additionally, the NCOA process is also required by state and federal law. The upcoming voter list maintenance process is required because the previous administration issued confirmation notices for both in July and August 2016.
The law states the following:
(A) The registration of a registered elector shall be canceled upon the occurrence of any of the following:
(6) The change of residence of the registered elector to a location outside the county of registration in accordance with division (B) of this section;
(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.
(B) (1) The secretary of state shall prescribe procedures to identify and cancel the registration in a prior county of residence of any registrant who changes the registrant’s voting residence to a location outside the registrant’s current county of registration. Any procedures prescribed in this division shall be uniform and nondiscriminatory, and shall comply with the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The secretary of state may prescribe procedures under this division that include the use of the national change of address service provided by the United States postal system through its licensees. Any program so prescribed shall be completed not later than ninety days prior to the date of any primary or general election for federal office.
ARE THERE ANY SAFEGUARDS FOR ABANDONED REGISTRATIONS?
Per a settlement with the A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI), an exception will continue that allows any person whose registration was previously 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 about Secretary LaRose at a meeting of the Ohio NAACP on September 13th, 2019:
“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.”