Not that anyone should be the least bit surprised, but the Trump administration took yet another step this week toward its well-thought-out policy goal of Reversing Anything Barack Obama Ever Did. This time, the Department of Justice reversed its position regarding an Ohio voting rights case the Supreme Court will hear in its upcoming term. Obama’s DOJ had been on the side of plaintiffs who say Ohio’s method of purging voter rolls is illegal. In Ohio, if you don’t vote within six years of your last participation in an election, you can be stricken from the voter rolls since you’ve obviously died or moved. Now, the 1993 National Voter Registration Act (the “motor voter” law) includes a rule against striking names from voter rolls because of inactivity, but the Trump DOJ now thinks cleaning up voter rolls is just peachy, because too many people voting is obviously bad for America.
How many people were affected by Ohio’s voter purges? More than a few — a temporary order by an appeals court last fall restored voting rights to over 800,000 people who’d been purged since 2015. That’s a lot of people disenfranchised for the sole offense of failing to vote in two consecutive federal elections. The rule was enforced vigorously — but unevenly — by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, who has made a career of suppressing votes; in 2012, he refused to comply with a court order demanding Ohio restore early voting hours that had been cut, since he feared voters would be “confused” by having more opportunities to exercise their franchise.
Husted, who’s now running for governor, insists that frequent purges of the voter rolls are the only way to prevent the epidemic of voting fraud that already doesn’t exist. It’s purely a happy coincidence that Republicans are pretty sure regularly clearing out infrequent voters is believed to get rid of more Democrats, especially youngs and browns, who may be less fanatical about getting out to vote every two years. As the Washington Post notes in an editorial,
As the demographic challenges to Republican electoral prospects mount, they have redoubled attempts to retain power where they hold it not by broadening their appeal but by shrinking the electorate.
The Ohio process of weeding out “invalid” voters mostly depends on people paying scrupulous attention to their mail: If people skip elections for just two years, the state mails out notices to the voters warning they’ll be deleted from the rolls in another four years unless they vote in an election or contact their local election office. That’s a pretty neat trick! Skip an election, and then you get a notice that you’ll be deleted in another four years. Can’t imagine how anyone could find that unfair. Even Donald Trump, who skipped the 2002 general election, might have gotten one of those cards had he lived in Ohio, though he’d have been fine since he then voted in the 2004 presidential election. (Incidentally, that missed 2002 vote made him a liar, again, when he claimed in 2011 that he’d never missed voting in a general election.)crack down on affirmative action, the Justice Department’s about-face on Ohio’s voting purges is being pursued by Trump political appointees; no career attorneys from the Civil Rights Division signed on to the DOJ court filing siding with Ohio. Sort of makes you wonder why Republicans have such a problem with letting qualified people vote, doesn’t it? seems likely to be upheld, which should winnow down the chances of too many of the wrong people voting. But it if looks too dicey, at least Donald Trump can be sure that a fairly large percentage of his supporters would be OK with just not having elections, since the danger of brown people voting can’t be entirely ruled out.
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