August 10, 2017

Justice Department Reverses Position in Ohio Voting Rights Case

By the C|C Whistleblower Lawyer Team

As reported in the New York Times, Washington Post, and other news outlets

The Trump administration has reversed an Obama administration stance and will support Ohio in its bid at the U.S. Supreme Court to revive a state policy of purging people from voter-registration lists if they do not regularly cast ballots.

In an amicus brief filed Monday, the DOJ solicitor general argued that the state’s purge process — in which voters who do not vote over a six-year period, and do not respond to a single piece of mail asking them to confirm their registration two years in, are removed from the voter rolls — is legal under federal law.

The brief, which takes the opposite view of the Justice Department under President Obama, contended that ignoring the notice is a lawful trigger for purge process, and does not amount to a purge due to inactivity.

Former President Barack Obama’s Justice Department had argued in a lower court that Ohio’s policy violated the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, which Congress passed to make it easier for Americans to register to vote.

Civil liberties advocates who challenged Ohio’s policy have said it illegally erased thousands of voters from registration rolls and can disproportionately impact minorities and poor people who tend to back Democratic candidates.

The state on Tuesday welcomed the administration’s action but voting rights advocates opposed it. The League of Women Voters accused the administration of “playing politics with our democracy and threatening the fundamental right to vote” by siding with an Ohio policy it said disenfranchises eligible voters.

“Our democracy is stronger when more people have access to the ballot box – not fewer,” the Democratic National Committee added.

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