Promoted from the diaries by streiff. Promotion does not imply endorsement.
On Monday in a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court upheld an Ohio law designed to purge their voter rolls of inactive voters. Federal law dictates that failing to vote in an election is not grounds for removing someone from the registration rolls. The Ohio law works thus: if you have not voted in the two consecutive previous years, they send you a postcard to determine if you still live at the address on record. If the the respondent does not reply and IF they fail to vote in the next four years which must include two federal elections, THEN AND ONLY THEN are they removed from the voting rolls. So, for example, if I vote in 2010 and skip the 2011 and 2012 elections, I receive a mailing which I disregard as junk mail. I then show up to vote in 2014…no problem. But, if I show up in 2018, then I likely have been removed from the rolls.
The decision was one of statutory interpretation and Justice Alito, who authored the opinion, said that Congress is free to fix this if they choose, but that it is the not the Court’s role to substitute the dissent’s preferred policy solution for the law as written. That dissent, expressed by Sonia Sotomayor stated that those most likely to be disenfranchised are “minority, low-income, disabled, and veteran voters.” According to her, it is these people who are most afflicted in Ohio with “language-access problems, mail delivery issues, inflexible work schedules, and transportation issues.”
According to data compiled in this case, at least 144,000 people have been purged from the rolls in Ohio’s three most populous counties- Cuyahoga, Hamilton and Franklin which include the cities of Cleveland, Cincinnati and Columbus respectively. These happen to be disproportionately Democratic-leaning and minority-heavy counties. Unaddressed is whether those “disproportionately affected” in these counties suffer from language access problems, whether their mail delivery system sucks, the inflexibility of work schedules, or the quality of transportation in these metropolitan areas. All we know is that they tend to be Democrat and they tend not to vote in a given six year time period.
The problem is not the income of the voter, their age or the color of their skin. The problem is their ideological leanings towards the Democrats. As another analysis noted, the problem of purging the rolls in hard-hit metropolitan counties like Hamilton is not found in the more affluent, Republican-leaning areas and the reason is simple: Republicans tend to vote more often than Democrats, especially in midterm elections. Democrats are quite proud of their GOTV efforts, but seem stuck at doing so every four years in a Presidential election. Perhaps if they expended more effort in midterm elections, less people would get purged.
Ohio secretary of state Jon Husted put it more succinctly: “If this is a really important thing to you in your life, voting, you probably would have done so within a six-year period.” It may seem callous, but it is the truth. The fact is there are these big cries about voter suppression and disenfranchisement born of electoral and constitutional ignorance. Kathleen Clyde, a Democratic state representative sums up the stupidity of the argument: “You shouldn’t be struck of your right to vote because you skipped an election.”
First, there is no explicit right to vote found in the Constitution. There are certainly provisions against discrimination based on race, color or previous servitude (the 15th Amendment), but there is no affirmative right to vote. Second, the Ohio law says nothing about skipping an election, but what amounts to six consecutive elections. It is certainly reasonable that if a registered voter failed to cast a ballot in six years it is not because of their English-language skills, the quality of transportation or their inflexible work schedule. It is because they are either dead, have moved, or just have turned their back on elections so as to be de facto unregistered.
In fact, in all the statistical analysis submitted in the briefs with this case, has anyone determined how many of the 144,000 removed from the rolls in the three previously cited counties were illegitimate purges? Of course, there are going to be some sad sack stories- or the fringe exceptions. And,of course, there is no longer an election day, but an election window given early voting and absentee ballots which negates many of the arguments of Sotomayor.
These arguments are akin to the those against voter photo ID requirements. Apparently only minorities and the aged or the poor are incapable of obtaining said identification even when the state provides it for free as was proposed in Alabama. Its ironic that in Georgia, a state with photo ID requirements, black election turnout is higher than in Mississippi, a state without the requirement and a comparable black population. Do these facts moderate Sotomayor’s beliefs? Are black Georgians smarter than black Mississippians? Maybe transportation is better in Georgia, or blacks have learned the English language better in Georgia.
One article on the issue actually stated that due to a host of socioeconomic factors, Democrats may encounter difficulties in record keeping and thus miss postcard reminders. It also seems it is always Democrats who suffer the most from long lines, inflexible work schedules (the polls are open 13 hours on Election Day in Ohio), and inadequate transportation.
In the case of the Ohio law, the wise Latina may be confusing voter stupidity, laziness, apathy, death or mobility with what she believes is racism. Considering that a Pew poll (cited by both the majority and dissent in the decision) found that about 24 million registrations are no longer valid or significantly inaccurate, it appears the efforts by Ohio are a step in the right direction.
The irony of the argument, besides revealing more race baiting by Sotomayor, is that the Ohio system seems to be a relic. It is costly to mail out cards to registered voters. Checking social security and tax records is considerably cheaper and more accurate. In fact, many states are moving in that direction when updating their voter registration rolls. Regardless, the failure to vote in six elections is an abrogation of one’s personal responsibility to exercise their “right” to vote. The dissent, like any liberal, dissects that lack of personal responsibility down to race, age, or socioeconomic status.