In Ohio voting-rolls case, Breyer and Kennedy could be crucial

Bryan Strickland
January 13, 2018

OH says it's doing it to keep their voting rolls updated and clear of people who have died or moved.

You can imagine the confusion, then, when hundreds of thousands of OH voters in 2015 were abruptly purged from their home state's registration rolls.

Sotomayor also said people have a "right not to vote".

But Justices Anthony M. Kennedy and Stephen G. Breyer expressed concern about maintaining the integrity of the state's list of eligible voters.

As Washington state lawmakers debate how to improve access to voting, the U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear a case on one state's efforts to purge voters from its rolls. A ruling for OH could prompt other states to adopt the practice, which generally pits Democrats against Republicans.

Signaling support for Ohio's defense of the process, Justice Anthony Kennedy said states are "trying to protect their voter rolls.What we're talking about are the best tools to implement that reason, to implement that goal". The court's consistent swing vote, Kennedy's vote may, as it has in many cases over the years, end up being decisive in Husted.

Breyer aimed all of his questions at Smith, the challengers' lawyer.

But plaintiffs in the case, who won a victory in a lower court, said Ohio's rule penalizes people who simply choose not to vote by assuming they've moved to a different county or state.

The Supreme Court may be poised to green-light a controversial OH program that removes infrequent voters from the state's registration lists.

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"What we're seeing is a real moment as to whether or not we're going to be a country that makes voting free, fair and accessible, or are we going to put a bunch of barriers in front of the ballot box", said Myrna Pérez, director of the voting rights and elections project at New York University School of Law's Brennan Center for Justice. She noted that in OH there are large groups of minorities and homeless people who face obstacles to voting like long lines at the polls.

WASHINGTON-The Supreme Court appeared divided Wednesday over an OH program that deletes citizens from the voter rolls if they don't cast ballots over a two-year period and then fail to respond to a mailed notice from the secretary of state.

He said it might be more appropriate to use of driver's license and post office change-of-address information, non-forwardable mail, and databases that show whether people who have moved to other states. Smith claimed that three percent of Americans move counties or state every year and only a small portion of them live in OH, yet the state still purges hundreds of thousands of people. But how long should a state of 11.6 million people continue to maintain an active record on someone who hasn't voted in six years and has ignored four years' worth of notices? If they fail to respond to the notice, and fail to vote for an additional four years, they get removed from the voter rolls.

An interesting twist in this case is the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, sometimes referred to as the Motor Voter Act, which was enacted to increase opportunities for citizens to register to vote by allowing them to register at their local DMVs.

Adding to the mix, the Trump administration reversed the position taken by the Obama administration and is now backing Ohio's method for purging voters. It seems quite unusual that your office would change its position so dramatically. "We don't want them on the voter roll".

The plaintiffs, represented by liberal advocacy group Demos and the American Civil Liberties Union, said purging has become a powerful tool for voter suppression.

They are sent a notice, the administration said in its Supreme Court brief, but only removed if "they fail to respond and fail to vote" in the elections that follow the notice.

Smith said the process was seriously flawed.

Breyer later asked Smith whether a state could send out a card, labeled with instructions not to forward, to voters. Ohio's is the most aggressive of fewer than 10 states that use nonvoting as a trigger for beginning the process of removal from voting rolls. "We should be working to make voting easier, not more hard, for Americans that want to participate in the electoral process". Challengers say the law has had an outsize impact among minority voters and in the state's urban areas. The outcome of the Supreme Court's OH case could change that. Helle, a Democrat, called Ohio's process "archaic" and "terrible policy".

Other reports by GlobalViralNews

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