The U.S. Justice Department has reversed its position in a high-profile voting case in OH, siding with the state in its effort to purge thousands of people from its rolls for not voting in recent elections.
In a court filing Monday, Justice attorneys took the opposite position from the Obama administration in a case that involved the state's removal of thousands of inactive voters from the OH voting rolls.
The new amicus brief says the Justice Department reconsidered the issue after a change in administrations and has now concluded Ohio's practice is legal.
The Supreme Court's decision will be carefully watched by other states who have also attempted to cleanup voter rolls.
If the voter does not respond to the notice or does not vote in an election within four years, the secretary of state can cancel the voter's registration. The shift may not have widespread department support, though, as Ari Berman reported in Mother Jones: "Notably, no career lawyers from the Civil Rights Division signed the brief, as is customary, potentially signifying internal opposition to the department's new position".
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".
Husted has argued that the policy removes voters from the rolls to ensure the integrity of elections.
" Thiscaseisabout maintaining the integrity of our elections, something that will be harder to do if elections officials are not be able to properly maintain the voter rolls", said Husted, who is running for governor next year.
OH is fighting for the right to send notices to any voters who miss two federal elections inquiring if they have moved, passed away or become otherwise ineligible to vote.
The Ohio program, which the Sixth Circuit struck down last September, had allowed the state to send registration confirmation notices to voters who have not voted for two years. The suit said that thousands of voters have been illegally removed from voter rolls, and that the rule disproportionately impacts minorities and poor people.
Brenda Wright, the vice president of policy and legal strategies at Demos, one of the civil rights group representing the plaintiffs in the OH case, called the policy "a direct threat to the fundamental rights of Americans and one more step toward dismantling our democracy".
Husted told Reuters that the policy was administered the same by both Republicans and Democrats. The facts haven't changed.
On Monday, the Justice Department reversed its stance, arguing that the OH policy does not violate the NVRA, since "the NVRA does not prohibit a State from using non voting as the basis for sending a [confirmation] notice". "Only the leadership of the Department has changed". "That letter suggested that the Department of Justice is gearing up for enforcement actions that could lead to states engaging in list maintenance activities that, if done improperly, could disenfranchise eligible voters".
"The question is what states are allowed to do in order to maintain their voter registration records - not what they are required to do", Ehrsam said.
Adams, a conservative voter fraud prosecutor and former DOJ lawyer, disagrees with multiple studies showing there's no proof the US election system is plagued by widespread chicanery.