The United States Supreme Court’s decision to review a challenge to Ohio’s voters roll purge policy brings the question of voter discrimination to the forefront again. In a case brought by Black trade unionist organization the A. Phillip Randolph Institute, the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and Larry Harmon, an Ohio voter, Ohio’s “Supplemental Process” is being challenged as a violation of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 and the Help America Vote Act of 2002.
Since the 2013 Supreme Court decision Shelby v. Holder that gutted Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which required Southern states with a history of discrimination to get Justice Department approval before changing their voting laws, a stream of new “voting laws” have become commonplace. Be it voters roll purges, restricting voter registration or access to actual voting, the growing number of voter disenfranchisement cases speaks of a changing populace and the lengths some will go to to hold on to power.
To a certain extent, federal law mandates voters roll purges. The Help America Vote Act — which passed under George W. Bush to help eliminate the “dangling chad” problem of the 2000 presidential election, where punch-card ballots led to the spoiling of almost two million votes — requires the maintenance of accurate and timely registration databases. The problem is that the law does not clearly enumerate how this is supposed to happen. Many states have developed poorly or maliciously designed purging rules that have led to the disenfranchisement of lawful, eligible voters.