Supreme Court gives Ohio right to purge thousands of voters from its rolls

Discussion in 'Politics and the Topics of the day' started by QueEx, Jun 11, 2018.

  1. QueEx

    QueEx Well-Known Member Super Moderator

    Supreme Court gives Ohio right to purge thousands of voters from its rolls

    The U.S. Supreme Court gave Ohio a victory Monday in a fight over the state's method for removing people from the voter rolls..

    by Pete Williams

    In a 5-4 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Courtgave Ohio a victory Monday in a fight over the state's method for removing people from the voter rolls, a practice that civil rights groups said discourages minority turnout.

    At least a dozen other politically conservative states said they would adopt a similar practice if Ohio prevailed, as a way of keeping their voter registration lists accurate and up to date.

    Prof. Rick Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California, Irvine, predicted that a win for Ohio would escalate voting wars between the political parties.

    "You'll see more red states making it easier to drop people from the voter registration rolls," he said.

    All states have procedures for removing from their registration lists the names of people who have moved and are therefore no longer eligible to vote in a given precinct. The issue before the Supreme Court was whether a voter's decision to sit out a certain number of elections could be the trigger for that effort.

    Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote the majority opinion, said the court’s job was not "to decide whether Ohio’s supplemental process is the ideal method for keeping its voting rolls up to date. The only question before us is whether it violates federal law. It does not."

    Ohio election officials send notices to anyone who fails to cast a ballot during a two-year period. People who do not respond and don't vote over the next four years, including in two more federal elections, are dropped from the list of registered voters.

    Larry Harmon sits in his home in Kent, Ohio, on Aug. 4, 2017. Harmon was removed from the voting rolls after not voting in the last election.Maddie McGarvey / for NBC News

    That's what happened to Larry Harmon, a U.S. Navy veteran and software engineer who was turned away from his polling place in 2015 when he found out he wasn't on the list. "I looked and I looked. And I saw my son's name, but I didn't see my name." So he joined a civil rights group in suing the state. Ohio said he was sent a notice, but he said he didn't get it.

    A federal appeals court ruled against the state, concluding that roughly 7,500 Ohio voters — in a state that's perennially a presidential battleground — were wrongly purged from the list in the 2016 election.

    Opponents of Ohio's system, led by the A. Philip Randolph Institute, said it violated the National Voter Registration Act, which specifies that voters can be purged from the rolls only if they ask, move, are convicted of a felony, become mentally incapacitated, or die. More than half the voters in Ohio fail to cast a ballot over a two-year period, the group said, and those who receive the state's notices simply throw them away.

    "The Supreme Court got this one wrong. The right to vote is not 'use it or lose it,'" said Chris Carson, president of the League of Women Voters of the United States. "This decision will fuel the fire of voter suppressors across the country who want to make sure their chosen candidates win reelection, no matter what the voters say."

    The Obama Justice Department supported the challengers in the early stages of the court fight, arguing that the mere exercise of the right not to vote cannot be the basis for removing a name from the voter rolls. But the Trump administration switched sides and supported Ohio, saying in a court brief that the state's system strikes a balance between "on the one hand dramatically increasing the number of voters on the voter rolls but, on the other, giving states the flexibility they need to manage the issues that arise when you have over-inflated voter rolls."

  2. QueEx

    QueEx Well-Known Member Super Moderator


    Supreme Court’s Ohio decision
    halts Georgia voting rights lawsuit

    June 12, 2018

    WASHINGTON — A federal lawsuit challenging Georgia's system of removing inactive voters from the registration rolls was formally withdrawn on Tuesday after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Ohio's similar voter "purge" policy did not violate federal law.

    In a 5-4 decision, the high court held that Ohio is not violating the National Voter Registration Act by sending address-confirmation notices to registered voters when they fail to vote in a federal election — and then eliminating their names from the rolls if they don’t respond and fail to vote in the next two federal elections over a four-year period.

    The decision reversed a lower court ruling that found Ohio's policy violated the voter-registration law by using non-voting to trigger the confirmation notices.

    In Georgia, people who haven’t voted or had contact with the elections system for three years are placed on an inactive list and then removed from the rolls altogether if they don’t respond to confirmation-of-address notices within 30 days – and then vote in the next two general elections.

    Because Georgia's and Ohio's policies are so similar, the Supreme Court's decision in Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute "essentially disposes, unfavorably, of our NVRA claim," said Emmet Bondurant, lead attorney for Common Cause Georgia, which had challenged the state's voter roll maintenance efforts along with the Georgia NAACP.

    Bondurant withdrew the case in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia in Atlanta. The filing preserves the right of Common Cause and the NAACP to "challenge the validity of the Georgia purge statue on other grounds in a future case," Bondurant said in an email.

    He said the high court's decision could leave several hundred thousand Georgia residents unable to vote in November, Bondurant said.

    "After the 2016 election, they purged roughly 400,000 who therefore will not be eligible to vote in 2018 unless they have re-registered, which very few people do," Bondurant said.

    Candice Broce, spokesperson for Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, said their office could not immediately confirm Bondurant's claim.

    Conservatives argue that fraud by ineligible voters can occur if people who die or move away aren’t regularly identified and cleared from the registration rolls as the law requires. But voting rights advocates say the removals disproportionately impact black, Hispanic and poor voters who traditionally vote at lower rates and tend to support Democrats.

    Kemp, a Republican who's running for governor, cheered the court's decision..

    "This ruling affirms that common-sense measures like Georgia's voter-list maintenance statutes, which prevent fraud at the ballot box, are appropriate and necessary to ensure secure, accessible, and fair elections," Kemp said in a statement.

    Common Cause and the NAACP filed their lawsuit in 2016, claiming Georgia's policy violated the National Voter Registration Act by unlawfully removing voters simply for not voting. Kemp had maintained that the lawsuit was without merit.

    In a December 2015 letter to Common Cause attorneys, state lawyers representing Kemp stressed that voters aren’t being removed for not voting. Rather, “a voter is removed because they have not had any contact with election officials in Georgia for a minimum of seven years, and they have not returned a postage prepaid, pre-addressed return card to confirm their residence,” the attorneys wrote.

    The policy helped fuel a rise in the number of inactive Georgia voters from nearly 714,000 in November 2012 to more than 1.3 million in September 2016. Over the same period, the number of Georgia’s registered voters dropped from more than 5.35 million to 5.17 million.

    Nearly 552,000 people are currently on Georgia's inactive voter list for a number of different reasons, Broce said.

    While Ohio's policy for removing voters is the most restrictive in the nation, Georgia, Oklahoma, Montana, Oregon, Pennsylvania and West Virginia have similar policies they use to maintain accurate registration lists.

    Voting rights advocates have expressed concern that other states will use Monday's court decision to begin pruning their rolls more aggressively ahead of the 2018 mid-terms. They say that puts people who historically vote at lower rates at greater risk for being erroneously trimmed from the rolls or declared inactive, which would require them to re-register.

    Advocates say those most likely to be affected include low-income people, minorities, disabled voters, young voters, those with language barriers and those who move frequently. Hourly workers who have difficulty making time to vote and active duty service members away for long periods of time could also be negatively affected.

    Read more here:

Share This Page