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Outdated Addresses Won’t Bar Votes in Ohio

(CN) — Ohioans who were removed from election rolls for failing to update their addresses with the U.S. Postal Service should be allowed to vote, a federal court ruled.

Ohio Secretary of State John Husted instituted a "supplemental process" to go with the National Voter Registration Act.

Voters who were knocked off the rolls for failing to update their addresses challenged the process.

A federal judge in Columbus, Ohio ruled that the process did not violate the NVRA. However, the Sixth Circuit overturned the ruling.

To comply with this decision, Husted filed a motion to implement a remedy that would allow voters who were disqualified in 2015 to rejoin the electorate if they met certain requirements.

Ohio A. Phillip Randolph Institute and other plaintiffs asked the federal court for an injunction that would allow all voters who were disqualified in 2011, 2013 and 2015 to vote in next month's general election.

The plaintiffs also asked for assurance that those voters' absentee ballots would be counted this year.

U.S. District Judge George Smith noted the difficulty of making such a ruling with less than 20 days until the election and with early voting underway.

"Given the time constraints and complexity of the logistical hurdles now faced by Secretary Husted and Ohio's 88 county boards of elections, it is unlikely that any remedy will be perfect," he wrote in an Oct. 19 ruling.

While all of the voters will not be reinstated, those who were illegally removed from the rolls will be able to cast provisional ballots.

"If the individual county boards of elections can confirm that the voter was removed pursuant to the Supplemental Process of 2011, 2013, or 2015, and the voter's information is the same as when he/she was purged or has moved within the same county as set forth below, then the provisional ballot must be counted, assuming the voter was not removed as deceased, incarcerated on a felony conviction, or ruled incompetent," Smith wrote.

However, he added that the plaintiffs' requests to have provisional ballots mailed to disqualified voters who ask for them "would be unduly burdensome on the Secretary of State."

The parties also disagreed on whether a disqualified voter had to reside at the same address in order to be reinstated. Smith ruled in the plaintiffs' favor.

"If a voter appears at her proper polling location and her name does not appear in the voter rolls, she may cast a provisional ballot," he stated. "In the weeks following the election, her county board of elections will check their past voter rolls to determine if she was registered to vote in that county at the time of her cancellation."

In addition, Smith ordered Husted to add instructions to the "MyOhioVote.com" website when it cannot produce a voter's registration information.

This dispute is one of several that have cropped up in Ohio as Election Day approaches.

The Sixth Circuit was criticized last week for refusing to hear a complaint from the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless that Ohio's absentee-ballot laws discriminate against minorities and the homeless.

In August, the Sixth Circuit upheld Ohio's decision to eliminate its "Golden Week" of early voting, which allowed voters to register and vote on the same day.

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