Administration sides with OH in voter purge

10 August, 2017, 00:14 | Author: Ora Austin

Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Niles, in a statement, said the Justice Department "should be dedicated to preserving and expanding the right of every eligible citizen to vote".

In a rare move, the U.S. Department of Justice reversed its position on Ohio's process for maintaining voter rolls in a high-profile voting rights case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

In a court filing Monday, Justice attorneys took the opposite position from the Obama administration in a case that involved the state's removal of thousands of inactive voters from the OH voting rolls.

The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit heard the case and ruled that the state policy did violate the NVRA.

The Supreme Court granted cert in May.

Justin Levitt, a former deputy assistant attorney general in the Justice Department's civil rights division who worked on the OH case during the Obama administration, wrote a blog on Monday, calling the reversal from the Justice Department unusual.

The Department of Justice is supporting OH in its bid at the Supreme Court to revive a state policy of purging inactive voters from registration rolls. If the person does not respond to the letter, and they also do not vote for four more years, then the person is purged from the rolls. This brief, unlike the prior one, was not signed by career attorneys in the civil rights division.

"I think that if the Department is going to be looking nationwide at the way states maintain their voter rolls, and also take positions that make it easier for states to purge voters who are eligible, that would be very concerning for voters and for voter rights", he said. Voters who haven't cast ballots for two years are sent a notice asking them to confirm their registration or update their address.

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He said the Justice Department over the past 20 years have defended voter rights.

"The law hasn't changed since the Department accurately told the Court that Ohio's voter purge was unlawful".

In opposition to the OH government, the DOJ under former President Barack Obama argued before a state can start the confirmation process to remove a voter, "it must have reliable evidence that the voter has moved", according to the Washington Times. The facts haven't changed.

Brenda Wright, the vice president of policy and legal strategies at Demos, one of the civil rights group representing the plaintiffs in the OH case, called the policy "a direct threat to the fundamental rights of Americans and one more step toward dismantling our democracy". "Only the leadership of the Department has changed".

"This case is about maintaining the integrity of our elections, something that will be harder to do if elections officials are not able to properly maintain the voter rolls", Husted said in a statement, according to the Associated Press.

The ACLU called the Justice Department's decision disappointing, saying the agency has consistently rejected the notion of purging people from rolls just for voting infrequently. That means they have to register again in order to cast a ballot.

"This isn't a war on voter fraud", Perez said. Previously the DOJ supported the challenge to Ohio's voter purging tactic, but now believes that it is in compliance with the 1993 National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) and the 2002 Help America Vote Act [materials].


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