OH case kicks off US Supreme Court focus on voting issues

OH case kicks off US Supreme Court focus on voting issues

OH case kicks off US Supreme Court focus on voting issues

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments Wednesday on whether OH can disqualify voters from casting ballots if they haven't voted over a period of years.

The justices will hear arguments in Republican-governed Ohio's appeal of a lower court ruling that blocked its policy of erasing from voter registration lists people who do not regularly cast a ballot.

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.

Civil rights groups challenging the OH process say federal law prohibits using voting inactivity to trigger purges.

The practice is overseen by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican candidate for governor in 2018.

States try to maintain accurate voter rolls by removing people who have died or moved away.

The case is pretty intricate, but a good overview comes from Slate's Amicus podcast, in which Dahlia Lithwick does a deep dive into the technicalities of the case.

California joined with NY, 10 other states, and District of Columbia to encourage the Supreme Court to strike down Ohio's practice of removing voters who have stopped voting and have failed to respond to the state's notice.

But Ohio argued that a 2002 USA law, called the Help America Vote Act, contained language that permits the state to enforce its purge policy.


If the court decides that OH can no longer purge its voter rolls in this way, at least six other states may have to change their practices.

Two other cases about the practice of gerrymandering also could have a big impact on US elections. He had been purged from the voter rolls because he hadn't voted in the previous two elections. At issue is whether Republican-drawn electoral districts in Wisconsin and Democratic-drawn districts in Maryland were fashioned to entrench the majority party in power in such an extreme way that they violated the constitutional rights of certain voters. Between 2011 and 2016, OH had removed about 1.2 million infrequent voters.

But Secretary of State Husted says the goal is not to keep people from the polls.

Democrats have accused Republicans of taking steps at the state level, including laws requiring certain types of government-issued identification, meant to suppress the vote of minorities, poor people and others who generally favor Democratic candidates.

A 2016 Reuters analysis found roughly twice the rate of voter purging in Democratic-leaning neighbourhoods in Ohio's three largest counties as in Republican-leaning neighbourhoods. A total of 5.6 million ballots were cast statewide. In 2016, 29 percent of the registered voters in OH failed to vote.

Freda Levenson, Legal Director of the ACLU of OH, has said purging voters simply because they have exercised their right not to vote is a form of voter suppression. In Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute, the court will balance the competing interests of easy access to voting verses the need for election integrity. "What we are doing is enforcing the law", said Bradley Schlozman, who supervised the U.S. Justice Department's voting section under Republican former President George W. Bush. "It's unfortunate", Schlozman added. Finally, defendants argue that prohibiting Ohio's specific trigger would be an infringement on federalism and the right of states to determine their own triggers within the boundaries of federal law. The county refuses to do so because her aunt has faithfully voted in every election over the last 10 years.

"And any connection between the initial failure to vote that triggers a notice and the final removal is "indirect" and "purely contingent" on the registrant's failure to respond", state solicitor Eric Murphy continued.

If not, he suggested also purging his name as a taxpayer.

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