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LaRose Releases Registration Readiness List

COLUMBUS – Continuing his innovative approach to help Ohioans keep their registration active and the state’s voter registration rates high, Secretary LaRose has released the Registration Readiness list. No one on the list of 115,816 registrations will be cancelled prior to the November 3, 2020 General Election. Boards of elections will restore the registration status of any registrant that votes, updates or confirms their registration, responds to a mailing, or engages in any other voter activity from now until December 7, 2020. 

According to Ohio’s county boards of elections, the registrations on the Registration Readiness list have been inactive, engaging in no voter activity whatsoever, for a period of at least four years per the NCOA process or six years per the supplemental process and have failed to respond to multiple notices mailed since 2016. Registrations which continue to be abandoned and inactive through December 7th, 2020 will be removed by the respective county board of elections as the law requires.

The Secretary of State’s office posted the Registration Readiness list online so individuals may search to see if their registration was included on the list by their county board of elections: VoteOhio.gov/RegistrationReadiness.

“Keeping our voter lists accurate isn’t just required by law – it’s the right thing to do,” said LaRose. “That’s why we’re once again using proven strategies to reach impacted registrants and cooperating with our longtime partners to give every Ohioan their opportunity to be heard each and every election.”

Registrants may become active in a number of ways. The most common and easiest for registrants include the following:

  • Voting in the November 3, 2020 election;
  • Requesting an absentee ballot application;
  • Updating or confirming their address through VoteOhio.gov.

This initiative will once again be amplified by community organizations across Ohio that help find and assist individuals that wish to continue their active registration status, as well as provide outside review and support to ensure list accuracy. So far, partners include the NAACP, Ohio Council of Urban Leagues, A. Philip Randolph Association, Ohio Right to Life, church organizations, and the Ohio Republican Party. The office will continue to mobilize the more than 200 partners who have worked with us on both voter registration and poll worker recruitment efforts.

The registrations on the list are current as of the date the data was generated and submitted to the Secretary of State’s office. The data depicts the inactive registrations contained in the counties’ voter registration systems. The county boards of elections generated this data and provided it to the Secretary’s office no earlier than August 7, 2020 and no later than August 21, 2020. This means there are registrations which are on the list but became active since the list was submitted. None of those registrations will be cancelled.

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.

WILL THE REGISTRATION READINESS LIST BE SHARED WITH OUTSIDE ORGANIZATIONS?
Continuing his commitment to unprecedented transparency, Secretary LaRose collected the registrations provided by the counties and uploaded 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 managed and maintained by 88 different county boards of elections, which utilize five different private vendors. Errors are going to happen. That’s exactly why Secretary LaRose adopted a policy of transparency to ensure that this lawfully required duty is completed as accurately as possible. This is why Secretary LaRose has been pushing for changes in law to finally modernize this highly decentralized and antiquated system.

WHAT ARE SOME IMPORTANT DATES TO KNOW? 
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 will 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 can 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 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 that 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. Additionally, LaRose has long-supported automating the voter registration process in Ohio. He is advocating for the passage of legislation to make it easier to get registered or update your information as a routine part of BMV transactions. He is also pushing for legislation at both the state and federal level to provide additional security and accuracy standards for voter registration databases and to require certification for database vendors.

WHAT HAPPENS IF SOMEONE WHO IS CANCELLED AFTER THIS YEAR’S ELECTION WANTS TO VOTE NEXT YEAR?
Any qualified Ohioan may register to vote. 

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 here: www.ohiosos.gov/media-center/press-releases/2019/2019-08-29/

WHAT DOES THE LAW STATE ABOUT THE VOTER LIST MAINTENANCE REQUIREMENT?
The voter list maintenance process is required by both state and federal law and has been carried out over the years by democratic and republican secretaries of state. 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 previous administration issued confirmation notices for both July and August 2016, which started a clock that requires voter list maintenance to be completed by the end of this year.

The law states the following:
codes.ohio.gov/orc/3503.21

(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.

The United States Supreme Court has upheld this process as lawful.

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Maggie Sheehan
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