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Election Integrity: High Court Ruling a Big Victory for American Voters

Consider this a huge victory for American voters. (Mykl Roventine via Flickr)

The American Civil Rights Union celebrates the U.S. Supreme Court's decision today regarding Ohio's voter list maintenance policies under the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) Husted v. A. Phillip Randolph Institute 16-980.

"This is a victory for the American voter. States have primary authority over elections per the U.S. Constitution, and we are grateful that Justice Clarence Thomas wrote separately to emphasize points that the ACRU argued in our brief about the serious federalism problems that the plaintiffs' arguments would raise," said ACRU General Counsel Ken Klukowski.

"States retain significant authority under the Constitution to determine voter eligibility in each state, subject only to certain restrictions at the federal level, and we are gratified that Justice Thomas highlighted the importance of this constitutional issue."

In Justice Clarence Thomas' concurring opinion, the constitutional arguments argued on behalf of ACRU are adopted:

Respondents' reading of the NVRA would seriously interfere with the state's constitutional authority to set and enforce voter qualifications.

The opinion also provides support for other tools being used to clean voter rolls ("So long as the trigger for sending notices is 'uniform, nondiscriminatory, and in compliance with the Voting Rights Act'.")

The Public Interest Legal Foundation filed an amicus brief on behalf of the American Civil Rights Union in support of Ohio's policy for removing ineligible and outdated voters. Below is a summary of observations made in support of Ohio's voter list maintenance policies.

  • The U.S. Constitution grants Ohio the power to determine which ineligible voters are subject to cancellation. Limited Congressional actions and court precedent find that regulatory authority over federal elections remains exclusively with the states.
  • Ohio's 'supplemental' voter list maintenance process is in keeping with the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 and the Help America Vote Act of 2002—finding otherwise violates basic principles of federalism. Regardless of the standard used to rule, the appellate court is currently throttling Ohio's maintenance procedures based on restrictions not found in the law. A state's duty to set qualifications for voting is matched with the expectation that they are enforced. Further, Congress has strictly barred states from only using inactivity as a justification for voter removal. The Sixth Circuit incorrectly carries that further, blocking Ohio from its combined approach of considering inactivity and responsiveness to official inquiry.
  • Ohio does not remove voters simply for failure to vote—which otherwise would be violation of the NVRA and HAVA. The supplemental procedure requires that a voter failing to cast ballots for two consecutive years, does not respond to a confirmation notice within the allotted time and continues to not vote for an additional four consecutive years be removed. Inactivity alone does not trigger an automatic cancellation.

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