U.S. Supreme Court to hear case alleging Ohio voter suppression

Published: May 30, 2017 at 2:52 PM

Doug G. Ware

May 30 (UPI) -- The U.S. Supreme Court decided Tuesday to hear a case surrounding the state of Ohio's policy of removing inactive voters from registration.

The high court agreed to hear Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute sometime next term.

The Randolph Institute, an organization of African-American trade union members, is challenging the state's effort to purge inactive voters from its registration bank, saying it violates two federal laws.

Under current state policy, a voter's status is affected if they don't vote in a two-year period. It is then up to voters to reconfirm their status with state election officials in order to cast a ballot.

A district court denied the plaintiffs' request that Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted reinstate purged voters, and an appellate court reversed that decision last September. Husted is seeking the Republican nomination for governor next year.

Ohio has removed 465,000 dead voters and 1.3 million duplicate registrations from the voter database in recent years. Husted's office at one point also introduced a program that automatically purges voters who don't update their registrations or vote over a span of six years.

Opponents to the Ohio policy say it violates two laws -- the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 and the Help America Vote Act of 2002. The latter was introduced in part as a response to the heavily contested presidential election of 2000.

Plaintiffs argue that removing "inactive" voters from Ohio's registration database is a strategic tactic intended to keep Democratic residents away from the polls and help the GOP in what's been a key swing state in recent elections.

Critics also say a single missed election should not be grounds for such a significant consequence.

"Ohio has purged hundreds of thousands of people from the voter rolls simply because they have exercised their right not to vote in a few elections," Freda Levenson, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Ohio office, said.

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