Supreme Court appears likely to approve Ohio's voter purging
- Ed Morales
She noted that in the past, both Republican and Democratic administrations had interpreted the NVRA as prohibiting the use of non-voting as a reason to remove people from the rolls. "They're removed because they failed to respond to a notice and failed to vote over a six year period".
OH is being backed in the case by 17 other mostly Republican states and the Trump administration.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor said Ohio's approach effectively disenfranchised minority voters in the state's major cities and were part of a broader effort to suppress voting. Employing such technologies not only provides a more secure and effective means of protection against voter fraud, to the extent that it exists, they also protect against external hacking and violations of integrity in a way that many current techniques do not.
According to The Nation, from 2011 to 2016, OH - a state with more than 11 million residents - purged 840,000 voters from its voter rolls for such voting inactivity.
On January 10 th, the US Supreme Court will listen to arguments on Ohio's methods to clear up its voter rolls. "And it's not like me to flaunt my military service by any means, but to be a veteran, go serve my country for so long, to come home and be told that I can not exercise one of the fundamental rights that I went and defended is ridiculous".
The U.S. Supreme Court seemed inclined Wednesday to rule for OH in a legal fight over the state's method for removing people from the list of registered voters. The federal appeals court in Cincinnati sided with the challengers.
Sotomayor pressed U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco on the change during oral arguments Wednesday, saying that solicitors general from Democratic and Republican presidents alike had argued positions at odds with the one the Justice Department was now taking. If notified Ohioans then either send their notices back, or vote at any point in the subsequent four years, they are kept on the roles.
Breyer said OH and other states want precise voter rolls to make sure voters are in the correct districts and to avoid voter fraud and impersonation. Francisco contended that the law was trying to strike a balance between increasing voter participation and giving states the flexibility they need to manage issues that arise when you have, quote, "overinflated voter 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.
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Opponents of what has been called "voter roll purging" say that voters whose names are removed from the rolls with practically no warning, find themselves unable to vote.
"I thought the Justices asked a great series of questions", Husted said in an interview after the court's hour-long arguments.
Signaling support for Ohios defense of the process, Justice Anthony Kennedy said states are trying to protect their voter rolls.What were talking about is the best tools for that objective. Kennedys vote often is decisive in voting cases that otherwise split conservative and liberal justices.
The case is also notable because the Justice Department switched its position this summer after the Supreme Court agreed to hear it.
"Voting is the foundation of our democracy, and it is much too important to treat as a "use it or lose it" right", said Stuart Naifeh, a voting rights lawyer with liberal advocacy group Demos, which is representing plaintiffs challenging Ohio's policy along with the American Civil Liberties Union.
As protesters raised their voices outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted was inside, arguing in favor of the way the state maintains its list of registered voters. It's also entirely possible that the case can be decided on narrow grounds of statutory interpretation involving the federal law directly in question.
When Paul Smith, the lawyer for voting rights groups opposing OH, said state election officials' method of sending notices to people who haven't voted "tells you nearly nothing" because 70% are not returned, Breyer shot back, "What are they supposed to do?" Smith pointed to the NVRA provision that says a state's purge process "shall not result in the removal of the name of any person ....by reason of the person's failure to vote". If they do not return the notice and fail to vote for the next four years, their voter registration is canceled.
An interesting twist in this case is the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, sometimes referred to as the Motor Voter Act, which was enacted to increase opportunities for citizens to register to vote by allowing them to register at their local DMVs.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court heard a dispute in OH about who can stay on an official list of registered votes.
Andre Washington, President, Ohio A. Philip Randolph Institute: "Voter purges, like Ohio's Supplemental Process, disproportionately affect low income voters and voters of color who face countless barriers to casting their ballot".
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