Supreme Court could uphold OH voter purge effort

Supreme Court could uphold OH voter purge effort

Challengers of an OH law that purges voters who do not participate in consecutive elections or respond to a notice from state officials seemed to face an uphill battle Wednesday at the Supreme Court.

Helle shared his concerns and personal experience having been subject to the state's voter purge policy during a news conference in Columbus on Tuesday. 7,515 voters removed pursuant to the policy cast provisional ballots in the 2016 presidential election.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said past administrations, both Democratic and Republican, had opposed Ohio-style attempts to cleanse their voter rolls on the basis of non-voting.

Ohio's system of elections is once again under national scrutiny, this time for the way in which voter rolls are kept up to date. "The reason they're purging them is they want to protect the voter roll from people that ... have moved and they're voting in the wrong district". The state then cancels the registration of any voter who moves and does not vote or change their registration within four years of receiving the notice.

In Ohio, the local election board uses change-of-address data from the U.S. Postal Service to identify voters who have moved without providing updated information.

Ohio, often a bellwether in national elections, has removed thousands of people who don't vote for two years, don't return warning notices, and then don't vote for another four years.

The Trump administration reversed the position taken by the Obama administration and is now backing Ohios method for kicking voters off its rolls.

The Trump administration filed a brief in support of the OH "use it or lose it" voting policy past year in Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute, which will be heard in the nation's top court on Wednesday.

Counsel for the challengers of the law-disenfranchised Ohio citizen Larry Harmon; the Ohio Coalition for the Homeless; and the Randolph Institute-contended that Ohio's notification process violates a portion of the NVRA preserved and clarified by a HAVA amendment that stipulates individual voters can not be removed "by reason of the person's failure to vote".

Twelve other states, including California and NY plus the U.S. capital Washington, have presented arguments to the Supreme Court seeking to ban the practice.

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Kobach championed a law in his conservative state of Kansas to require individuals to provide proof of citizenship when registering to vote, but it's been challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and is going to trial in March. Better, he said, to use driver's licenses or some other database.

Helle feels that voters should not be forced to cast ballots for issues or candidates that they do not believe in, just to avoid being unregistered. In that scenario, he explained, the failure to vote would truly not be the trigger for removal, because the state would have "concrete, reliable evidence" that the voter had moved. A federal appeals court sided with the challengers.

In Ohio, if someone doesn't vote for two years, they receive a notice in the mail confirming their address. But they disagreed on what that means in practice.

Ultimately, the Supreme Court needs to clarify the protections afforded by the federal government under the Elections Clause, which gives Congress authority to "make or alter" state election regulations, a provision that the Framers included specifically with the intent of keeping states from manipulating Congressional elections so as to subvert the power of the federal government.

"This process has worked very well in OH under Democratic and Republican administrations". The group says that - because a failure to vote triggers the notice, which ultimately allows the state to cut a voter's registration - the failure to vote is inextricably tied to a voter's falling off the roll.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor brought up the right of people not to vote in an election, if they chose to do so, as a reason to take away their voter registration.

Seventeen other states signed a brief supporting Ohio's case.

The Justice Department sided with the Randolph Institute when the case was before the Sixth Circuit, but filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of OH after President Donald Trump took office previous year.

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When Sotomayor asked Murphy for statistical evidence to back up Ohio's belief that nonvoting is reliable way to infer that someone has moved, he shot back that no statistical evidence is necessary under the NVRA.