Last week, the U.S. Solicitor General took the unusual step of reinterpreting a 24-year-old federal statute specifically designed to convenience voting in order to switch sides in a pending Supreme Court case that centers on Ohio’s aggressive purging of voter rolls. The Trump Justice Department now sides with Ohio, which contends that not voting for six years — and then not responding to a single mailing asking the voter to confirm his or her registration — is sufficient to remove that person from state voter rolls. That should cause no small amount of alarm. It’s part of a broader effort by the Trump administration to restrict voting rights under the guise of fighting fraud, which is nearly non-existent. The true purpose is to keep from the polls individuals who are less likely to support Republican candidates or causes. And it’s a potential stake through the heart of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, also known as the “Motor Voter Act,” which was meant to expand, not shrink, the nation’s voter registration rolls.
How Ohio maintains its voter registration rolls has been under legal attack for well over a year. The war of interpretation is approaching its end before the U.S. Supreme Court. For decades Ohio has maintained its voter rolls the same way, under both Democrat and Republican leadership. When someone uses the US postal service for a change of address, is convicted of a felony or files a death certificate, appropriate action is taken to adjust the voter’s registration to prevent fraud.
West Virginia: Secretary of State’s Office sends notices to outdated voter registrations | The Independent Herald
In an effort to keep the state’s voter registration rolls as up to date as possible, the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office on Aug. 9 mailed about 130,000 postcards to registered voters whose addresses have been flagged as outdated. By updating voter registrations, West Virginia Elections Director Donald Kersey said the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office is not only complying with the duties outlined in the National Voter Registration Act but is also ensuring the integrity of any election. … Kersey said the roughly 130,000 registered voters represent about 11 percent of the total population of registered voters. He added that by updating the state’s voter registration rolls, the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office is able to get an accurate picture of voter turnout.
Reversing the position it took during the Obama administration, the U.S. Department of Justice under President Trump last week asked the Supreme Court to uphold a procedure the state of Ohio wants to use to purge some voters from its election rolls — a practice that disproportionately disenfranchises poor and minority voters. The court should decline the invitation and rule that Ohio is violating the 1993 National Voter Registration Act. That landmark law prohibits states from purging registered voters from the rolls just because they failed to vote. Ohio argues that its procedure is justified by language added to federal law in 2002. But the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the state’s interpretation last year. The appeals court said that using a lack of voter activity as a “trigger” for beginning the purge process made a “paper tiger” of the law’s ban on purges for not voting.
The Trump administration moved deeper into the politics of voter suppression this week by reversing the federal government’s opposition to Ohio’s effort to purge tens of thousands of voters from the rolls simply because they vote infrequently. A federal appeals court blocked Ohio’s move last year as a violation of voting laws, in a case brought by civil rights advocates and backed by the Obama administration’s Department of Justice. Now that an appeal has been accepted for this term by the Supreme Court, Trump appointees at Justice — not career professionals — have changed the government’s position to side with Ohio, in effect endorsing the purge and asking that it be allowed to go forward.
Two counties identified as having more registered voters than citizen voting age population by a watchdog organization say they have rectified the issue. In April, the watchdog group Judicial Watch sent a letter to the Illinois State Board of Elections identifying 24 counties that had more registered voters than voting-age population. Two west-central Illinois counties, Cass and Scott, have nearly or totally corrected the issue, according to officials. Scott County Clerk Sandy Hankins addressed the matter with the board of commissioners in July, noting that the state felt the county was within regulation. However, Hankins took steps to correct any problems by mailing new voter identification cards.
The Justice Department has thrown its weight behind Ohio in a high-profile legal fight over the state’s purging of infrequent voters from its election rolls, reversing the federal government’s position under the Obama administration that the practice was unlawful. The move was the latest in a series of changes the department has made in how it enforces civil rights law under the Trump administration. The dispute centers on an aggressive practice used in Ohio, a crucial swing state in presidential elections, that removes voters who sit out three election cycles and fail to respond to a warning. Last year, when the state sought to delete several hundred thousand registrations of infrequent voters ahead of the presidential election, civil-liberties groups filed a lawsuit against Ohio’s secretary of state, Jon Husted. After the Obama-era Justice Department filed a friend-of-the-court brief calling the purging practices unlawful, a federal appeals court ordered Ohio to let those people vote.
Around 60,000 voters could miss out on voting in the September General Election after their enrolment update packs were returned marked “gone no address”. Enrolment update packs were sent to 3.15 million enrolled voters at the end of June to check their details were correctly listed on the electoral roll for the September General Election. Voters whose packs are returned to sender are taken off the electoral roll. “Those voters need to get back on the roll now so their vote will count this election,” chief electoral officer, Alicia Wright said.
Editorials: The Trump Justice Department joins the GOP crusade to shrink the vote | The Washington Post
The idea that voting should be encouraged, and voter registration simple, has been a touchstone of federal law for decades. That idea is now under assault by Republicans in statehouses across the country and, more recently, in the Trump Justice Department. On Monday, political appointees in Justice engineered an about-face in the government’s position on a key voting rights case before the Supreme Court, backing Ohio’s efforts to purge hundreds of thousands of infrequent voters from the state’s voter rolls. You read that right. According to Ohio’s Republican secretary of state, Jon Husted, who is now running for governor, it’s okay for a state to disqualify people from voting in the future if they haven’t voted in the recent past — specifically, in the past six years.
Editorials: Jeff Sessions’ DOJ just gave states the green light to purge voter rolls | Mark Joseph Stern/Slate
Under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Department of Justice has switched sides in several key court battles, reversing positions the agency took during the Obama era. Already, the DOJ has withdrawn its opposition to Texas’ draconian voter ID law and to mandatory arbitration agreements designed to thwart class actions. Now the agency has made another about-face: On Monday, it dropped its objections to Ohio’s voter purge procedures, which kick voters off the rolls for skipping elections. The DOJ is now arguing that such maneuvers are perfectly legal. Ohio’s voter purges are at issue in a Supreme Court case, Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute, which the justices will hear next term. The state purges voters from the rolls relentlessly, removing around 2 million people between 2011 and 2016—with voters in Democratic-leaning neighborhoods twice as likely to be purged as those in Republican-leaning neighborhoods. While most states regularly clean up their voter rolls, Ohio is unusually aggressive in targeting individuals because they have not recently cast a ballot. Up to 1.2 million of those 2 million purged voters may have been removed for infrequent voting.