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DOJ reverses position in upcoming Supreme Court voting rights case

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions Bastiaan Slabbers  ZUMA

"By changing their position in the 2016 OH voter purge, the Justice Department is playing politics with our democracy and threatening the fundamental right to vote", League of Women Voters President Chris Carson in a statement following the DOJ reversal.

"The Department of Justice's latest reversal of its position in a critical voting rights case represents just the latest example of an agency whose leadership has lost its moral compass", she said.

The court found that the voter registration notices violated that prohibition because they were triggered exclusively by the act of nonvoting.

In their brief, government lawyers say they reconsidered the OH vote-purging issue after the "change in Administrations", and they argue that the state's actions are legal under federal law.

The Supreme Court said in May it would hear the case.

Ohio's procedure allows the state to purge voters who meet certain criteria for being inactive. Here's how it works: If a voter has not voted in two years, they are sent a notice asking to confirm their registration.

One provision of the law requires states to conduct programs that make a reasonable effort to remove ineligible voters from voter rolls. He called the department's decision to back the state "alarming". And for conservatives like him, it's a matter of election integrity. This is what the statute means - the Department of Justice's best take on what the statute means. Brickner says 7,500 people who voted in OH last fall wouldn't have been able to vote if these restrictions were in place. A number of courts found the Texas law to be unconstitutional, and a federal court in April found that the Texas legislature intentionally discriminated against black and Hispanic voters.

The government's filing said it reconsidered its position following the change in administrations.

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted's office has removed 465,000 deceased voters and 1.3 million duplicate registrations from Ohio's voter rolls in recent years.

"This case is about maintaining the integrity of our elections, something that will be harder to do if elections officials are not able to properly maintain the voter rolls", he said. "This is a major about-face for the Department of Justice after decades of consistently weighing in on cases that have to do with the National Voter Registration Act and whether or not voters can be purged from the voter rolls", he said. The Justice Department under President Barack Obama said Ohio's method was prohibited. Several other groups, including former attorneys with the Justice Department's Civil Rights division and attorneys general from 17 states, have adopted the same position, Husted said.

"The law hasn't changed since the Department accurately told the Court that Ohio's voter purge was unlawful". The facts of the case didn't change, but the person in charge at the White House did. "Only the leadership of the Department has changed". "The Justice Department's latest action opens the door for wide-scale unlawful purging of the voter registration rolls across our country".

JUSTIN LEVITT: The Department of Justice switches policy every now and again, but this is different.

The brief defends the process by noting that multiple steps are required before a voter is removed from the rolls. If the voter does not respond, nor cast a ballot within the four years after that, they're removed from the rolls. OH law would then, they argue, violate the law by removing someone's registration with no evidence that they have actually moved addresses.

"This isn't a war on voter fraud", Perez said.

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