Tuesday, 20 November, 2018

U.S. Supreme Court allows purges of state voter rolls

Justice Alito with opinion in Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute Justice Alito with opinion in Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute
Jeannette Daniel | 11 June, 2018, 21:31

"On the one hand dramatically increasing the number of voters on the voter rolls but, on the other, giving states the flexibility they need to manage the issues that arise when you have over-inflated voter rolls", the Trump administration lawyer Solicitor General Noel Francisco said in a court brief. Voters who then fail to respond to the notice and vote within the next two years are removed from the rolls. The first law, the National Voter Registration Act, was enacted in 1993 to advance two goals: Making it easier for would-be voters to register while at the same time guaranteeing "accurate and current" registration lists.

The four liberal justices dissented.

Organizations and individuals who challenged the law said Ohio's process was illegal under federal laws that ban states from using voter inactivity to spark removal from the rolls. The second law, the 2002 Help America Vote Act, directed the states to maintain a system to cull ineligible voters from their lists.

In a decision by Justice Samuel Alito, the court emphasized that subsection (d) of the NVRA specifically allows states to remove a voter who "has failed to respond to a notice" and "has not voted or appeared to vote".

The challengers criticized what they called Ohio's "use it or lose it" policy that they said violated registered voters' right to choose when to vote, noting that some voters do not cast a ballot when they do not support any of the candidates running.

The court's five conservative justices voted in the majority, with the court's four liberals dissenting.

More news: Trump pulls out of joint G7 statement, calls Trudeau "weak"

"Voters have been struck from the rolls in Democratic-leaning neighborhoods at roughly twice the rate as in Republican neighborhoods", the study found. "Neighborhoods that have a high proportion of poor, African-American residents are hit the hardest". "It does not", Justice Alito wrote.

The ruling, she argued, "ignores the long history of purge programs in our country which have been used to unfairly and disproportionately target minority voters".

In a separate dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said Congress enacted the voter registration law "against the backdrop of substantial efforts by states to disenfranchise low-income and minority voters".

The ruling revives the battleground state's process for managing its voter rolls after an appeals court invalidated it in 2016. "Marginalized populations remain extremely vulnerable to state-sanctioned voter suppression and disenfranchisement, and we will continue to fight to uphold the rights of eligible voters in the 2018 midterm elections, and beyond".

Adding to the tension in the case, the Trump administration reversed the position taken by the Obama administration and backed Ohio's method for purging voters.

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