Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Dean of the Ohio Delegation, spoke at a press conference at the U.S. Supreme Court to defend the constitutional rights of Ohioans who have been purged from voter rolls and to condemn the clear voter suppression implicit in denying eligible citizens access to the ballot box. The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute. The case revolves around Larry Harmon, who tried to vote in an Ohio local election in 2015 only to find that the state had removed him from the voter rolls because he had not voted since 2008. Image by Cong. Marcy Kaptur via Flickr Creative Commons https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/
In 2015, a guy named Larry Harmon showed up to vote on a local initiative. Harmon’s problem was the last time he cast a vote was in 2008 and he was sort of sloppy about even reading his mail. He wasn’t on the voter roll, and, as far as I can make out, was not allowed to vote. (A brief side trip here. I’m chief judge in a voting precinct. I have been for six years. In my state, I would have issued Harmon a provisional ballot. He would have cast it. The Board of Elections would have examined his ballot the week after the election. They would determine that he was eligible to vote and added his ballot to the total and put him back on the voter rolls for next election. A 100% no-harm-no-foul situation. I don’t know how Ohio works this issue.)
Keeping with their M.O. of ensuring the voting process is as open to abuse as they can make it, a left-wing advocacy group, the A. Philip Randolph Institute filed suit saying booting Harmon from the voter rolls was against federal law. The federal law says you can purge voting rolls, like by sending postcards, but you can’t use failure to vote as a reason to purge voters. Ohio prevailed in federal district court but 6th Circuit reversed saying that because the failure to vote triggered the mailing of the postcard that it was actually Harmon’s failure to vote that got him booted and therefore violated federal law.
The case was argued before the Supreme Court in January and just now the Supreme Court has ruled, 5-4, in favor of Ohio.
Via SCOTUSBlog Live Blog:
The majority holds that Ohio’s process follows subsection (d) of the National Voter Registration Act “to the letter: It is undisputed that Ohio does not remove a registrant on change-of-residence grounds unless the registrant is sent and fails to mail back a return card and then fails to vote for an additional four years.”
Alito says that the dissenting justices have a policy disagreement, but that’s a matter for Congress; it is not up to the justices to second-guess Congress or decide whether there is a better way to keep the voter roles up to date.