A Victory for Voting Law

13 June, 2018, 13:38 | Author: Essie Rivera
  • Supreme Court backs Ohio law to clear voter rolls of people who haven't cast a ballot in years — here's what it means

In Ohio, the "notify, wait, and purge" process is "triggered" by "a registrant's failure to engage in any "voter activity" for two years". The state was sued after the 2015 election, when those who had not voted since Barack Obama was elected president in 2008 discovered they no longer were registered. Under Ohio law, people who skip voting in two consecutive elections and then ignore various mailings from the state are removed from registration rolls, reports the Columbus Dispatch.

The procedure "does not strike any registrant exclusively by reason of the failure to vote", Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the majority.

That act prevents states from canceling voter registrations exclusively because those registered do not show up to vote. "It does not", Alito said.

Stuart Naifeh, senior counsel at Demos - a left-wing group that led the legal team challenging OH - warned that his organization would continue to "fight back in the courts" if states view the ruling as a sign they can be reckless. Even if there were a case or two, that's a tiny fraction of the more than 7,500 OH voters who went to the polls in 2016 and were turned away because they had been purged. He claimed no recollection of receiving a confirmation notice from the state and he later brought suit along with two public interest groups called the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and the A. Philip Randolph Institute. Republicans generally say such moves are necessary to combat voter fraud, while Democrats see them as a way to restrict voting by minorities and young people who tend to vote Democratic.

The Trump administration defended the OH policy, a reversal from the Obama years, when the Justice Department challenged it in court. A handful of other states also use voters' inactivity to trigger a process that could lead to their removal from the voting rolls. Georgia and 16 other states filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting Ohio. He cited estimates that 24 million voter registrations in the United States-about one in eight-are either invalid or significantly inaccurate.

The court's conservative majority held that this practice does not violate federal voting rights laws.

But in recent years, some purges have been viewed through a more partisan lens. Alabama put 340,000 voters on its inactive list the same year.

That makes Ohio's system "a bit stricter", said Wanda Murren, director of communications for the Pennsylvania Department of State.

As discussed in our term preview, OH election boards identify registered voters who have not voted in two years (one federal election cycle), then send them confirmation notices to see if they still live at their registered addresses.

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Thus, the process of removing a voter takes about six years.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati in 2016 blocked Ohio's policy, ruling that it ran afoul of the 1993 law.

OH sends notices to registered voters who have not voted in a two-year period.

"We are anxious that would-be vote suppressors will read too much into it and conclude that aggressive purges or unreasonable purges would be tolerated", Perez said in an interview. "By working with the bipartisan county boards of election we can balance the responsibility to maintain accurate voter rolls while still being fair to all voters".

The Crosscheck program, which involves 26 states around the country, has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years as some states accuse it of improperly flagging eligible voters.

Thirty-eight states and the District of Columbia do not use failure to vote to initiate the cancellation process, according to the League of Women voters.

Annastacia Belladonna-Carrera of Common Cause Minnesota said there are many legitimate reasons registered voters miss elections, and they shouldn't be barred from returning to the polls after a lapse.

Tennessee has eliminated the practice of purging voters based on a lapse in voting history.

Last week, U.S. President Donald Trump said he would nominate Eric Murphy, the OH lawyer who argued the case on the state's behalf, to a seat on the Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

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