The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has ordered emergency relief that will protect the right to vote for countless Ohioans who were unlawfully purged from the voter rolls.

The Court noted that Ohio, for years, has been purging voters from the registration rolls using notices that likely violate the requirements of the National Voter Registration Act (“NVRA”). It ordered Ohio to count ballots cast by certain Ohio residents purged pursuant to a practice known as the Supplemental Process, which results in removals when a voter has not cast a ballot or engaged in other election activity for a period of six years.

“Today’s ruling will allow Ohio voters—who would have been unlawfully disenfranchised—to cast their ballot this November,” said Stuart Naifeh, Senior Counsel at Demos. “In a state where elections have been won or lost by only one vote, protecting the right of eligible voters to have their voices heard will uphold the fundamental principles on which our democracy is supposed to operate.”

The relief ordered, known as the APRI Exception, requires that individuals who have been purged have their provisional ballots counted if the voter (1) appears in person to vote during early voting or on Election Day, (2) was removed from the registration rolls in or since 2011, and (3) did not become ineligible to vote for another reason subsequent to the time they were purged. Exceptions to the in-person voting requirement exist for uniformed, overseas, sick, and disabled voters who are unable to make it to the polls.

“Black, low-income, and other traditionally marginalized voters have been disproportionately removed under Ohio’s purge practice,” said Andre Washington, President of the Ohio A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI). “Illegally removing these individuals from the voter rolls and disenfranchising them prevents Ohio from creating a truly inclusive and representative democracy—one where all its citizens have an equal chance to make their voices heard.”

“This has been a hard-fought victory for Ohio voters,” said Freda Levenson, legal director for the ACLU of Ohio. “We are thrilled that the Sixth Circuit responded to this emergency, and ruled to allow unlawfully-purged voters to vote this November. Turnout next week could break historic records. This decision allows eligible voters to participate. This is a bright moment for democracy.”

The relief ordered does not end the Sixth Circuit’s review of the case. The Court is slated to consider the full merits of whether Ohio violated the NVRA’s notice requirements.

“Today’s decision will protect the right of housing-insecure persons to cast a ballot in November and have their votes counted,” said Chris Knestrick, Director of the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (NEOCH). “We will continue to fight to ensure that no person is unlawfully removed from the voter rolls and denied their fundamental right to vote.”   

Well, At Least We Are Not Florida...

We had long lines, but at least we were not as bad as Florida.  Ohioans had to wait for hours on the final weekend of early voting, but not anywhere near as long as Florida.  The results were not released locally until 11:05 p.m., but that is better than 11 a.m. four days after the election as they were in Florida.   We had a court fight on the day after the election, while Florida will have to settle a number of lawsuits over this election.   We have two state representatives in which the races are narrow thin margins of victory, while Florida had two federal races that were not called for four days. 

We need real election reform in the United States with a law passed or a series of laws passed or even a Constitutional amendment to make our election fair.   Our recommended changes include:

  • Elimination of the Electoral College so that the President is elected by national popular vote.
  • Elimination of gerrymandering in the creation of legislative districts by removing it from the oversight by any one political party.  There should be a law that both political parties including independents must come to a consensus on legislative districts.
  • Standards for early voting across the United States as well as military voting and vote by mail provisions.
  • There should be standards for registering people to vote including the ability to register to vote on election day.
  • There should be free national identification that can be used for people to register to vote.
  • No one should have to wait more than one half hour to vote in person, and this should be a national standard with consequences for long waits.
  • People should be taxed at a higher rate if they decide not to vote.
  • People should be allowed to vote a county wide ballot at any polling place if they do not want to cast a vote for local items or local elected officials. 
  • Voting should be done in whatever manner yields the most secure ballot with a paper backup and a way to count the ballots quickly. 
  • Money is not speech.  We need public financing of campaigns and guaranteed access by the candidates to the local and national networks.  We own the air waves, and they need to be given over to electing our leaders once a year. 

More to come



NEOCH Will Help With Voting on Election Day

We have distributed a flyer to all the local shelters offering help with getting out voters.  We are offering a free ride over to polling places anywhere in Northeast Ohio.   NEOCH will be on the phones the entire day answering questions about homeless participation in the election, registration information on clients, and the exact ID needed in order to vote.  We can offer a ride out to Summit County, Geauga County or Lake County if the voter was not able to change their registration because they became homeless over the last 30 days.  We can offer help if a client is challenged at the polling place and needs assistance or does not understand why they are being forced to vote a provisional ballot. Give us a call if you need help with voting or you have questions about identification, provisional ballots, residency laws or anything, and we will find an answer 216-432-0540.

Here is a copy of the flyer if you work at a facility and may need help.

Brian Davis

Some Further Clarity on Provisional Ballots

NEOCH won again in our attempts to count as many provisional ballots as possible. We want to assure that every legitimate voter that takes the time to vote will have their ballot count.  The federal court expanded the directive to include anyone who is misdirected will have their provisional ballot counted not just those without the correct identification.  So, this means that any voter who is directed by the trained poll worker to the wrong precinct when casting a provisional ballot their ballot will still count.  Judge Algenon Marbley said:
“To disenfranchise citizens whose only error was to rely on poll worker error seems fundamentally unfair,” Marbley said on Wednesday October 24 in a decision after the hearing.
Here is the comments by the attorney representing NEOCH in the lawsuit against the State of Ohio. 
In our Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, et al. v. Husted case today (and it's companion related case), after a hearing, U.S. District Judge Algenon Marbley in Columbus issued from the bench the injunction we were seeking that prevents Secretary of State Husted from discarding the thousands of provisional votes where poll workers have misdirected voters to the wrong polling place. The Secretary and Attorney General continue to advocate for such blatant vote suppression, claiming somehow it is burdensome for poll workers and boards of elections to count those votes.

Voters are much more likely to be misdirected in Democratic urban areas, because these are areas with more polling places, more precincts, and more poll workers – and therefore more confusion on election day.

Shame on Secretary Husted and Attorney General DeWine. They are losing almost every round. Again, today's ruling will save thousands of legitimate votes from being discarded just because government workers blundered.

We will continue to work to get homeless voters to the polling place.  We will also work to protect people's right to vote on election day, and we will watch the counting of provisional ballots on November 17 throughout Ohio. 

Brian Davis