Jon Husted, Ohio Secretary of State v. A. Philip Randolph Institute

Topic(s): 
Scope of Statutory Rights and Remedies
Docket Number: 
16-980
Case Description: 

The state of Ohio initiated a program of purging its voter rolls by sending notices to voters who have not voted in two elections, and then deregistering them if they do not respond to the notice and do not vote within the timespan of the next two general elections following the notice. Under the National Voter Registration Act, states are prohibited to use non-voting as a basis for deregistering voters, although they are permitted to use a similar method to eliminate voters when they have reason to believe they have moved out of the jurisdiction in which they are registered. Two Ohio organizations and an Ohio voter who was purged from the rolls for not voting even though he had not changed his residence challenged Ohio’s program, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit held that Ohio’s actions violated the NVRA. Ohio’s Secretary of State successfully petitioned for review of the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. The United States Justice Department, which had previously supported the challengers’ reading of the statute, switched sides and filed a brief supporting the Ohio Secretary of State. Public Citizen filed an amicus curiae brief explaining that the United States’ new arguments distort applicable principles of statutory interpretation. On June 11, 2018, the Supreme Court ruled, 5-4, that Ohio’s method of purging its voter rolls complies with the applicable federal statutes because it does not deregister voters “solely” for not voting, but also for not responding to mailed notices.