Supreme Court appears likely to approve Ohio's voter purging
Jan 11 2018
The case looks at Ohio's "purge policy", in which the state used maintenance lists to bar people from voting in elections if they had not voted in a two-year period or contacted a state voting agency for a six-year period.
"What are they supposed to do?" he asked Paul Smith, the lawyer representing plaintiffs who challenged the policy and argued that voting should not be a "use it or lose it" right.
As Reutersnoted on Wednesday, conservative Supreme Court justices were joined by Stephen Breyer in "signaling sympathy toward Ohio's policy of purging infrequent voters from registration rolls".
This year a lawsuit by Judicial Watch is making its way through California's courts on the majority of its counties having inaccurate voter rolls.
A decision upholding Ohio's law would pave the way for more aggressive vote purging efforts in OH and other states, while the law's elimination would "send a strong signal that the federal government and the National Voter Registration Act place important limits on what states can and can't do with their voter rolls", says Dale Ho, who heads the American Civil Liberties Union's Voting Rights Project. And other places. And I have certainly seen it proposed it would be a good idea, given the low voter turnouts in our country, that we adopt something like that as well.
States try to maintain accurate voter rolls by removing people who have died or moved away. But not everyone who moves notifies the post office, the state said. Helle, a Democrat, called Ohio's process "archaic" and "terrible policy". And when OH sends out mailings to voters asking them to confirm whether or not they've moved, about 80 percent of those who are sent these mailings never respond to them. They are sent a notice, the administration said in its Supreme Court brief, but only removed if "they fail to respond and fail to vote" in the elections that follow the notice. That is why Congress adopted federal laws that prohibit what OH is attempting to do.
OH says the program helps the state determine which citizens have died or moved to different jurisdictions, warranting their removal from the registry. Plus, she is the author of: "How to Find and Eliminate Illegal Votes".
"People have a rightnot to vote if they choose", Sotomayor said.
"It really seems like this is the direction that people who want to restrict voting are moving in", said Dale Ho, the director of the ACLU's Voting Rights Project.
"That's part of the free-speech argument to me", he said.
The policy was blocked by a federal district court sitting in OH in April 2016 for violating the 1993 National Voter Registration Act.
But the Court could get to the heart of the matter simply by asserting that anyone's decision not to vote alone shouldn't put one's right to vote on a short track to extinction.
"You have the rightnot to vote", said Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who directed a volley of critical remarks at Ohio's attorney Eric Murphy. Stuart Naifeh, an attorney for Demos, said OH also eliminated same-day registration for early voting in 2014, which ended an opportunity that voters previously had to correct erroneous removals and cast ballots. A ruling for OH could prompt other states to adopt the practice, which often pits Democrats against Republicans. Between 2011 and 2016, OH had removed about 1.2 million infrequent voters.
Dozens of voting rights activists gathered for a rally outside the courthouse before the arguments, with some holding signs displaying slogans such as "Every vote counts" and "You have no right to take away my right to vote".
The left-leaning justice, whose family is Puerto Rican, underscored that Ohio's purging of voter lists had mostly affected people from ethnic minorities and from the poorer segments of society. "We know that's wrong", U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from OH, said at the rally.