SCOTUS Hears Case on Purged Ohio Voter Rolls

SCOTUS Hears Case on Purged Ohio Voter Rolls

SCOTUS Hears Case on Purged Ohio Voter Rolls

When U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco rose to support the state's position, he faced a prickly question from Justice Sotomayor.

A Navy veteran will head to the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday to challenge how OH culls its voter rolls - a practice that activists have linked to the more than 7,500 Ohioans blocked from voting in the 2016 presidential election.

Republican Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted noted that the state's policy has been in place since the 1990s under Republican and Democratic secretaries of state.

Several other states that use the failure to vote as a trigger in efforts to cleanse their registration rolls could be affected by the high court's decision in the OH case, including Georgia, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and West Virginia.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, often the pivotal justice in voting cases, and Justice Stephen G. Breyer, usually a reliable liberal vote, sympathized with Ohio's intent.

The A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI), a civil rights front, challenged the policy in court, citing two federal laws that prohibit states from purging voters "by reason of the person's failure to vote". "If Ohio or any other state is purging people from the rolls due to their failure to vote, that is a clear violation of federal law, period".

Partisan fights over ballot access are being fought across the country.

Sotomayor said the policy could further disenfranchise people who find it more hard to vote, including minorities and the homeless.

"We make every effort possible to try to reach out to voters to try to get them to vote", Husted said.

OH voters who do not cast a ballot for two years are sent a mailer asking if they wish to remain registered. The state said it only uses the disputed process after first comparing its voter lists with a USA postal service list of people who have reported a change of address. Representing the challengers, lawyer Paul Smith said there was no balance struck with Ohio's system, that, in fact, most people just tossed the address confirmation card in the trash - if they get it that is.

"Knocking eligible voters off the rolls simply because they exercise their right not to vote is illegal", said Dale Ho, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's voting rights project.

A Philip Randolph Institute, is a challenge to a method OH uses to purge its voter rolls.

While it's not unusual for department positions to change over time or with different administrations, flipping sides in the middle of a case is highly unusual.

Jackie will be able to speak about election irregularities that may occur during 2018's mid-terms and special election as well as the impending court cases involving voter rolls.

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

The state, however, counters that its decision is based on the evidence it obtains over that time - the failure to vote and failure to return the notice followed by more nonvoting - that the person has moved. The evidence shows, Smith responded, that most people throw such notices in the trash.

Those on the opposite side say that processes like purging the voter rolls leave an unfair disadvantage to minorities, ethnic groups, and the impoverished.

Justice Breyer - what are states supposed to do? And if you happen not to see the notice among the junk mail, or if it doesn't arrive for some reason, you're out of luck.

OH has used voters' inactivity to trigger the removal process since 1994, although groups representing voters did not sue the Republican secretary of state, Jon Husted, until 2016. Otherwise state election officials, especially in Republican-governed states where the people in charge are hardly interested in maximizing voting opportunities for habitually Democratic groups in the electorate, will keep finding ways to make the right to vote a use-it-or-lose-it proposition.

Ohio Solicitor Eric Murphy said Congress had adopted a "compromise" that "left a lot of room for states in our federal system to adopt the procedures that are best in that state". Husted appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court.

Smith questioned why OH needed such an aggressive purging tactic at all, saying only 3 percent of Americans move each year and many take steps to update their address.

Larry Harmon, an OH resident and plaintiff in Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute, expressed similar reasons for not voting.

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