Trump Administration Reverses DOJ's Stance on Ohio's Voter Purge

"And this seems to confirm many people's worst fears that this Department of Justice will instead undermine the right to vote", Brickner says.

Regarding the pending Supreme Court case Husted v A. Philip Randolph Institute, President Donald Trump's Department of Justice (DOJ) filed an amicus brief (pdf) in favor of Ohio's voter-rolls maintenance program-which cancels registrations of those who do not update their registrations or vote over six years-a move that critics warn "opens the door for wide-scale unlawful purging of the voter registration rolls across our country".

A lawsuit over the OH law is headed to the Supreme Court.As reported by Mother Jones's Ari Berman, the Justice Department, in a stark reversal from the Obama administration, filed an amicus brief Monday in support of the state. After a lower court ruled agains the state, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the ruling and remanded the case for further proceedings. The US Supreme Court will hear the case during its upcoming term this fall.

Justin Levitt, a professor at Loyola Law School and a former DOJ attorney, wrote in a blog post that "it's quite rare for the DOJ to change course after a filing a brief in the court of appeals".

In that case, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, who's also a 2018 Republican candidate for governor, argues it's legal for him to purge voters if they skip multiple elections and don't respond to a warning notice.

It then allowed the state to purge voters who did not respond to the notice, but only if they failed to vote during the following four years. He also pointed out that no career civil rights attorneys signed onto the brief, which appears to have been drafted exclusively by Trump administration political appointees.

According to the Times, the division "has been at the center of culture-war fighting in recent decades when Republican and Democratic administrations take over from each other".

In 2016, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Demos filed a lawsuit on behalf of Larry Harmon, 60, an OH resident who was purged from the voter rolls after he decided not to vote in two elections.

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

In the brief Monday, the Justice Department argued that OH gives voters opportunity to respond and remain on the rolls.

But in an unusual turn, the department filed a new amicus brief Monday arguing that the purges of voters are legal under federal law.

Under the law, OH officials send an address verification letter to the registered address after a person has not voted for two consecutive years. The facts of the case didn't change, but the person in charge at the White House did. He called the department's decision to back the state "alarming". "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", he said.

Husted told Reuters that the policy was administered the same by both Republicans and Democrats. That means they have to register again in order to cast a ballot.

Levitt said that not voting and not responding to one piece of mail are not enough to determine that someone is ineligible to vote - and that the procedure affects "less active" voters, who tend to be nonwhite, young and poor.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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