Ohio voters purged from the rolls will be allowed to cast provisional ballots in elections through 2022, following an agreement between the ACLU of Ohio and the Secretary of State's Office.
The settlement provides a temporary truce over a long-running dispute on how to handle inactive voters, stemming from a 2016 lawsuit. Freda Levenson, legal director for the ACLU of Ohio, calls the agreement a big win for voters who have been removed from the polls because they hadn't voted or responded to requests for updated voter information.
"As long as they still live in the same county where they were originally registered to vote and otherwise remain eligible, they can vote provisionally and have their provisional votes counted," she says.
The agreement applies to any local, state, special or federal election through 2022. Voters who cast a provisional ballot in any of these elections will also be restored to the voter rolls, Levenson says, so they will be able to vote in future elections.
“This case has loomed over our election system for far too long, and its settlement is a win for Ohio voters," said Secretary of State Frank LaRose in a statement. "With this matter now behind us, we can work to modernize our voter registration system so we can run the more secure, accurate and fair elections that all Ohioans deserve.”
In its 2016 lawsuit, the ACLU of Ohio asserted the process being used by the Secretary of State's Office violated the National Voting Rights Amendment because it targets voters for removal based on their failure to vote. But that argument was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court last year.
Thursday's settlement deals with a second part of the lawsuit, which argued voters targeted for removal under this process had not been provided proper notice that their status as registered voters was in jeopardy.
The agreement also requires LaRose to send eligible voters who are not registered a mailing with the deadline for registering for the November 2019 general elections. It tells local Boards of Elections to use motor vehicle records to make sure people who are at risk for being removed from the rolls remain eligible to vote.
The Secretary of State must also provide reports on provisional ballots after elections.
This story will be updated with more information as it becomes available.